A Fearless Leader With A Heart For Change

Fannie Lou Hamer 1964/Warren K. Leffler/Wikimedia/CC0


Have you ever heard your grandma utter, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”?

Many believe that these words were first spoken by the iconic, civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, during her 1964 speech at a Harlem church. She was discussing her 1962 trip to Indianola.

She’d left her job at a sharecropping plantation in Mississippi and jumped on a bus in an attempt to register to vote. She detailed the experience with the crowd, explaining the literacy test, the voter registration form,and the bus trip.

Then she began to describe what happened in 1963. It was a harrowing turn of events for the group, who were returning from a voter education workshop. During a pit stop in Mississippi, several of the activists left their bus to grab food or use the restroom.

Hamer, still on the bus at this time, witnessed police chasing her peers out of the restaurant and ran to their aid. The scene led to multiple arrests, and once in jail, brutal beatings ensued.

According to detailed accounts of Hamer’s life, the beatings she endured left her with permanent kidney, leg, and eye damage.

Despite the severity of the event, Hamer went on to help establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. And in 1964, she delivered a testimony during the Democratic National Convention that was so compelling, it was broadcast on national TV.

Fannie Lou Hamer spent her entire life working. At age six, she picked cotton alongside her family. At age 12, she had a full-time job. And by the end of her life, her legacy of service included fighting for civil rights, developing child and family services, and championing women’s issues.

Hamer passed away in 1977 due to heart disease and cancer. With her selfless dedication to her community, her most repeated refrain now brings irony. She may have been “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” but she worked until the very end.

If you would like to know more about Fannie Lou Hamer, check out This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer.

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