Fannie Lou Hamer was the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers. On August 31, 1962, she learned about her constitutional right to vote from student organizers in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Fannie was a political organizer, women and voting rights activist, and the founder of many organizations, including the National Women's Political Caucus, which was formed to ensure women of all races were prepared for democratic responsibility. She also co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which established more than 40 Freedom Schools during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. That summer, Fannie and others also attempted to register over 17,000 Black people to vote, of which 1200 were registered successfully (due to racist attacks and political repression).
Fannie also stressed the need for mutual aid and self-sustainability. In 1969, she purchased 50 acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, and established the “Freedom Farm Cooperative” composed of over 1500 families. Two years after its founding, they were able to purchase an additional 640 acres of land which allowed them to exist as a self-sustaining community, avoiding racist Jim Crow society and white supremacist systems, which excluded Black people.
Fannie also created systems that helped Black people support one another through cooperative business, education, and health-care programs. Fannie even made sure there were about 200 units of low income housing available to families in the cooperative. The key takeaway here is that this was a grassroots effort to sustain a community. Although the cooperative was not able to sustain itself long-term, it is a model for how America can really be, especially for disenfranchised and marginalized groups that face racist and political repression.
Liberation for our people will come through organization, dedication, and through a commitment to protect and uplift one another through service and mutual aid cooperation. Thank you, Fannie, for your dedication to the movement. ✊🏾