Meet the sharecropper who scared the president

Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes

Fannie Lou Hamer would turn in her grave to witness people willingly not voting:

She was beaten to within inches of her life to pave the way for Black people to do just that.

Undeterred by her beating, Hamer kept organizing voter registration drives and went on to become Vice-Chair of the Mississippi National Freedom Party—aka Freedom Democrats—which was formed to challenge the state’s all-white delegation to the National Democratic Convention in 1964.

“I question America.”


Calling to be seated at the convention over the state’s segregated official party delegation, Hamer and the Freedom Democrats put President Johnson in a bind: their success could lose him the support of other Southern delegations he needed to win the nomination for a second term.

Johnson hoped to keep the Freedom Democrats out of the minds of most Americans.

Though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slated to speak at the convention, Johnson feared Hamer’s testimony; he called a bogus press conference at the White House to deflect attention from her.

Johnson’s planned backfired.

Breaking away from Hamer to cover Johnson’s announcement of the nine-month “anniversary” of Texas governor’s John Connolly’s shooting during JFK’s assassination, television networks later ran, and re-ran, Hamer’s testimony unedited.

She laid bare injustices faced by Blacks on account of we want to register to become first-class citizens.

And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America.

Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings in America?

Thousands of calls poured in to the Democratic Party’s credentials committee in support of the Freedom Democrats. In the end, they didn’t get the seats they came for in ’64 but were seated in 1968.

Listen to Hamer’s testimony and celebrate her legacy by exercising your right to vote.

(I suggest listening WITHOUT watching the video, which I found distracting).

To learn more, here’s a short documentary on Hamer from Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

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Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for kind people, products and businesses in food, fashion & more. Subscribe to her newsletter here.