Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), was an outspoken advocate for civil rights for African Americans. Born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie was the last of twenty children born to Jim and Ella Townsend. When she was two years old her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi, where she started working as a sharecropper picking cotton. By 13 she could pick between two and three hundred pounds of cotton a day, sadly Fannie spent most of her life as an agricultural worker who saw no end to the cycle of poverty and humiliation of African Americans.
Most would say that Fannie’s activism started on August 23, 1962, when an associate organizer of Martin Luther King Jr. for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) gave a sermon in Ruleville, Mississippi and appealed for African Americans to register to vote. Fannie was the first to volunteer, totally disregarding the dangers associated with black registered voters; who often faced excessive verbal harassment, beatings, and lynching
When it came time to actually register Fannie Lou didn’t back down, but instead lifted those around her with hymns of courage and faith. As a result for her uplifting work she was taken in as a member of the SNCC and traveled all around the south doing what she did best. Later in life Fannie continued to work in Mississippi for the Freedom Democrats and for local civil rights causes, but her focus always remained to those from the rural areas of Mississippi. Where she started and supported multiple programs for the poor in Mississippi, and all though that grew up in the same position as she did.
When Fannie Lou Hamer died of breast cancer in 1997, her tombstone reads her famous quote, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired". Fannie is a symbol of how even the smallest voice can become the biggest as long as they have courage. At a very young age she started questioning the social order, and as injustice takes place all over the word Fannie Lou Hamer should stand as a symbol of courage. Even under the threat of death those that have courage can make change.