Fannie Lou Hamer began her life picking cotton in Mississippi. Fifty years later she served as a delegate at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In the intervening years, she became a renowned voter rights and civil rights activist in the South. Despite facing systemic racism, intimidation, and appalling police brutality, Hamer worked tirelessly to register voters and demonstrate against racial segregation. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee recruited her to organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, during which she served as a mentor to black and white organizers from around the country.
Hamer helped to create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus, and she ran for Congress in 1964. She was also a supporter Head Start and the Poor People’s Campaign. Just as Ms. Hamer guided young activists in Mississippi in the summer of 1964, so her legacy inspires Harvard Law Students to “remain committed to all struggles [we] believe in.”
In the words of the HLS community members who nominated Fannie Lou Hamer, “She is a hero that we do not hear nearly enough about.” “A black woman, who went from being a sharecropper to a freedom fighter, whose advocacy was so powerful that it scared the President of the United States, deserves a place at the forefront of history and in this exhibit.”