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 - Lútsen van der Sluis -

Fannie Lou Hamer was an extraordinary civil rights activist born on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States. Her life was imbued with struggle, courage and dedication to the fight against racial discrimination and for civil rights. She grew up in poverty, at a time when black people in the southern United States faced widespread oppression and segregation. 

Hamer was tireless in her pursuit of equality and justice. Her activism began to take shape in the 1960s, when she became involved in the civil rights movement, most notably the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. She became a prominent member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a crucial role in mobilizing black voters in the South despite severe opposition and intimidation. 

One of Fannie Lou Hamer's most notable achievements was the founding of the

Freedom Farms Cooperative, which played a central role in the economic empowerment of black farmers in Mississippi. The Freedom Farms were founded as a response to the widespread discrimination and economic disadvantage faced by black farmers. Hamer believed strongly in economic autonomy and food sovereignty as a key to liberation and equality for black communities. 

The Freedom Farms were intended not only as a source of income, but also as a symbol of self-reliance and resistance to oppression. Hamer believed that black farmers should be able to own and cultivate their own land without being oppressed. The cooperative provided training, support, and collective resources to black farmers, allowing them to organize and improve their agricultural operations. 

The success of the Freedom Farms was remarkable and inspired many others in the civil rights movement and beyond. It served as a model for economic self-reliance and community building during a time of intense racial tensions and social unrest. Hamer and her fellow activists used the Freedom Farms as a platform to draw attention to the structural inequalities Black farmers faced and to advocate for change at both the local and national level. 

In addition to her work with the Freedom Farms, Fannie Lou Hamer remained a tireless advocate for civil rights, continually drawing attention to issues such as voting rights, education, healthcare and poverty alleviation. Her determination and courage often brought her into conflict with the powers that be, but she continued her fight tirelessly, even in the face of serious setbacks and personal tragedies. 

Hamer was a staunch advocate for women's rights. As an African-American women, she emphasized the importance of equal rights for black women, and her courageous actions led to change, including being a role model and as co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, she ensured equal representation for black women within the Democratic Party. In addition, her efforts led to greater recognition of what we today call intersectionality; the coincidence of various forms (race, gender, sexual orientation) of social injustice, inequality and oppression. 

Fannie Lou Hamer died on March 14, 1977, but her legacy lives on in the ongoing fight for equality and justice. Her contributions to the civil rights movement and her commitment to economic justice continue to inspire and motivate people around the world. The Freedom Farms remain a monument to her vision of empowerment and community, and a reminder of the power of determination and collective action in the fight against oppression and inequality. 

More multimedia

  • Frank en Zwiers, Solidariteit in de Mississippi delta: ‘Je deelt wat je hebt: samen voorwaarts', Groene Amsterdammer 27-4-2023. 

  • Brooks, Fannie Lou Hamer: America’s Freedom Fighting Woman, 2020. 

  • Blain, Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America, 2021 


Image: John Dominis, DNC 1964, Atlantic city, New Jersey, United States.


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