An Oral History with Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer

1972 - 1973
Dr. Neil McMillen (interviewer)
Fannie Lou Hamer (interviewee)
Fri, 04/14/1972
Doc # 
721 James Street
Ruleville, MS
United States

In this oral history conducted by Professor Neil McMillen, prominent civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer discusses her impoverished upbringing in rural Mississippi and her subsequent involvement as a leader within the Civil Rights Movement.  Hamer was born into an extremely poor family of sharecroppers on a plantation in Sunflower County, Mississippi.  Explaining that "Life was very hard," Hamer described the impoverishment of many African American families like her own in the Mississippi Delta.  After marrying her husband Pap, the couple settled on a different plantation, where Hamer first became involved in voter registration activities in 1962.  When Hamer first attempted to vote in Indianola, Mississippi, she was denied by officials because she could not pass a Constitutional interpretation test, then a tactic used to deter African Americans in the South from voting.  After this experience, Hamer became extremely involved in voter registration drives and started working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  During her time as an activist, Hamer also had the opportunity to visit Africa; she discussed this emotionally impactful experience in detail during this oral history.  Because of her civil rights work, Hamer often faced the threat of both bodily harm from police and even imprisonment.  Hamer's political involvement induced her to run for Congress in 1964.  Beyond her run for office, Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), an organization that, according to Hamer, faced heavy discrimination from the "Loyalist" Democratic Party.  Hamer discussed her disillusionment with the unethical strategies employed by politicians, and called her approach "clean politics."

Additional information 

Document Description: 55 page photocopy of document; located in PLT Archive folder "Fannie Lou Hamer Oral Interview, Int: Dr. N. McMillen, Univ. of Sout. Mi., 1977"; Notations:document contains an abstract, biography and and two separate interviews, the first of which conducted at the date above and the other on January 25, 1973.

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