Fannie Lou Hamer’s Voice of Hope
Ruleville’s role in our country’s civil rights story rests on the words and actions of many brave men and women, but one woman’s voice continues to reverberate through time. Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer, born in 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi, was the youngest of 20 children and at an early age labored in the fields with her sharecropper parents. Despite her lack of formal education, Hamer was smart and eager, acquiring various leadership roles on the plantations where she worked. Hamer was known for her beautiful voice and would sing to uplift the spirts of a community oppressed by a racist society. She was one of 17 individuals who traveled to Indianola, Mississippi, in an attempt to register to vote. Her bravery had severe repercussions: She was driven from her home, endured threats, beatings and arrests, and was even shot at. Yet she continued to fight for social equality, becoming a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helping organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African-American voter registration campaign. She was also instrumental in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.