Many Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans fell victim to being human science experiments.
Lou Hamer was sterilized as a young girl as part of the racist notion
by Mississippi whites that black women needed to stop having children.
She grew up to be staunch civil rights activist.Born October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County,
Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer was the granddaughter of a slave and the youngest
of 20 children. Her parents were sharecroppers. Sharecropping, or "halfing," as
it is sometimes called, is a system of farming whereby workers are allowed to
live on a plantation in return for working the land. When the crop is harvested,
they split the profits in half with the plantation owner. Sometimes the owner
pays for the seed and fertilizer, but usually the sharecropper pays those expenses
out of his half. It's a hard way to make a living and sharecroppers generally
are born poor, live poor, and die poor.
At age six, Fannie Lou began helping her parents
in the cotton fields. By the time she was twelve, she was forced to drop
out of school and work full time to help support her family. Once
grown, she married another sharecropper named Perry "Pap" Hamer.
On August 31, 1962, Mrs. Hamer decided she had had
enough of sharecropping. Leaving her house in Ruleville, MS she and 17
others took a bus to the courthouse in Indianola, the county seat, to
register to vote. On their return home, police stopped their bus. They
were told that their bus was the wrong color. Fannie Lou and the others
were arrested and jailed.
After being released from jail, the plantation
owner paid the Hamers a visit and told Fannie Lou that if she insisted
on voting, she would have to get off his land - even though she had been
there for eighteen years. She left the plantation that same day. Ten
days later, night riders fired 16 bullets into the home of the family
with whom she had gone to stay.
Mrs. Hamer began working on welfare and voter
registration programs for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
On June 3, 1963, Fannie Lou Hamer and other civil
rights workers arrived in Winona, MS by bus. They were ordered off the
bus and taken to Montgomery County Jail. The story continues "...Then
three white men came into my room. One was a state highway policeman (he
had the marking on his sleeve)... They said they were going to make me
wish I was dead. They made me lay down on my face and they ordered two
Negro prisoners to beat me with a blackjack. That was unbearable. The
first prisoner beat me until he was exhausted, then the second Negro
began to beat me. I had polio when I was about six years old. I was
limp. I was holding my hands behind me to protect my weak side. I began
to work my feet. My dress pulled up and I tried to smooth it down. One
of the policemen walked over and raised my dress as high as he could.
They beat me until my body was hard, 'til I couldn't bend my fingers or
get up when they told me to. That's how I got this blood clot in my eye -
the sight's nearly gone now. My kidney was injured from the blows they
gave me on the back."
Mrs Hamer was left in the cell, bleeding and
battered, listening to the screams of Ann Powder, a fellow civil rights
worker, who was also undergoing a severe beating in another cell. She
overheard white policemen talking about throwing their bodies into the
Big Black River where they would never be found.
In 1964, presidential elections were being held.
In an effort to focus greater national attention on voting
discrimination, civil rights groups created the Mississippi Freedom
Democratic Party (MFDP). This new party sent a delegation, which
included Fannie Lou Hamer, to Atlantic City, where the Democratic Party
was holding its presidential convention. Its purpose was to challenge
the all-white Mississippi delegation on the grounds that it didn't
fairly represent all the people of Mississippi, since most black people
hadn't been allowed to vote.
Fannie Lou Hamer spoke to the Credentials
Committee of the convention about the injustices that allowed an
all-white delegation to be seated from the state of Mississippi.
Although her live testimony was pre-empted by a presidential press
conference, the national networks aired her testimony, in its entirety,
later in the evening. Now all of America heard of the struggle in
A compromise was reached that gave voting and
speaking rights to two delegates from the MFDP and seated the others as
honored guests. The Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation
would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the vote.
A year later, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights
Prior to her death in 1977, Fannie Lou Hamer was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, as an honorary member.
Edited by pattigurlatl - Feb 07 2013 at 11:41pm