Never Give Up The Fight

A civil rights leader of the past reminds us that without freedom for all there can be no true democracy.

As long as there's racist police and politicians abusing their authority, protests need to continue.

This sentiment is from Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist, who on Aug. 31, 1962, led 17 volunteers to register to vote at the Indianola, Mississippi, courthouse. Instead of being allowed to vote, the group was forced to take a literacy test, harassed on their way home by police and fined $100 on the bogus charge that their bus was too yellow.

In June 1963 while continuing to fight to get free and fair rights to vote in Mississippi, Hamer and other Black women fought against racist Jim Crow laws. They were arrested for sitting in a “whites-only” restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. At the jailhouse, several of them were brutally beaten. Hamer suffered lifelong injuries, including a blood clot in her eye and damage to her kidney and leg.

In 1964, soon after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the local Democratic Party’s efforts to keep Black people from participating.

While seeking reelection, Johnson – needing the support of Southern Democrats who opposed integration – tried to block attention to Hamer’s speech with a hastily called, televised press conference. But the move backfired: Hamer’s speech was shown in its entirety on primetime TV later that day.

By 1968, Hamer had become a member of Mississippi’s first integrated delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

Despite the threats and harassment she faced from white supremacists, police brutality and even the power structure in the Democratic party, Fannie Lou Hamer helped and encouraged thousands of African-Americans in Mississippi to become registered voters.

"We been waitin' all our lives, and still gettin' killed, still gettin' hung, still gettin' beat to death. Now we're tired waitin'!"—Fannie Lou Hamer

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