Fannie Lou Hamer (October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting and women’s rights activist, community organizer, and leader in the civil rights movement. She was the co-founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
“Is this America?”
These three words were part of sharecropper-turned-change maker Fannie Lou Hamer’s impassioned plea to defend the right to vote for every citizen regardless of race, creed, or color.
It was a simple question with a complex challenge to the credentials committee for the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Speaking on behalf of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Hamer detailed the scare tactics and the violence Black Americans faced in their long and storied quest to vote. She recounted her own brushes with brutality at the hands of the police when she was beaten so badly that her vision was impaired, and her kidneys were severely damaged.
Her gripping testimony was not just a call for the inclusion of Black delegates in the Democratic Party; it was also a prophetic warning that unless the nation extended equal treatment to Black Americans, the fight for voting rights, human rights, and civil rights would persist for years to come.