Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was one of the most noteworthy leaders of the civil rights movement. The National Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee in Ruleville, Mississippi, is raising funds to erect a statue of Hamer beside her gravesite.
Eleven years ago Mississippi native Patricia Thompson saw the neglected and unkempt grave of Fannie Lou Hamer and “vowed that no one else would see it in that condition again.” She began to work with people who knew Hamer, including Charles McLaurin, who met Hamer during a voter registration drive in Mississippi during the civil rights movement.
Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964. (AP Photo/stf)
Fannie Lou Hamer was a brave and courageous woman who, in McLaurin’s words, “never backed down.” When she registered to vote in 1962, she was thrown off the plantation where she worked as a sharecropper. In 1963 she was arrested in Winona, Mississippi, with other civil rights activists and was beaten severely by two policemen. She regularly sang hymns to other civil rights workers to bolster their courage, and was revered as a maternal figure by the northern college students who went south to work in the civil rights movement. In 1964 Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. Her testimony before the credentials committee at the convention was televised, and the nation was riveted by her words. Hamer’s accomplishments are numerous, yet she is not as well-known as she should be.
In December of 1999 Patricia Thompson, Charles McLaurin, and others began the work of maintaining the gravesite and started to talk with the city of Ruleville about their plans for the future. Now, where there was once a neglected grave, there is a garden. The Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden has a gazebo, fountains, shrubbery, and an area where a statue is planned. The city of Ruleville helps to maintain the garden.
In February of 2010 the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee was launched to raise funds for a statue to honor this great woman. Charles McLaurin is the Director of the project and Patricia Thompson is the Coordinator. Contributions are tax-deductible, with fiscal sponsorship provided by the National Black United Fund.
As Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, observes, “Black women are mostly invisible in the public statuary.” Please visit the committee’s website and help honor Fannie Lou Hamer with a statue. Send this information along to your friends and let’s make it happen. I passionately agree with Dr. Malveaux when she says, “Can the sister get a statue? She can if enough people support the cause.”
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