The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer

In our long fight for a free and equal America, I think often of the giants whose shoulders we stand upon. Many of their stories — Dr. King, Dolores Huerta, John Lewis — are familiar to all of us; others are relatively untold. The fullness of their stories is not reflected in our textbooks, but the impact of their lives is felt everyday.

Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer is one of the latter.

Born October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Ms. Hamer came to civil rights activism relatively late in life, but through force of character and vision, she powerfully, and successfully, challenged a nation on its moral standing.

When the Democrats in the South wouldn’t let her vote, Ms. Hamer created a parallel political party. She founded cooperative farms, ran for Congress four years before Shirley Chisolm, started Freedom Schools, and overcame racist threats and assaults to ensure her community’s voice was heard in the halls of power.

There may be no Voting Rights Act, no Women’s March, and no President Barack Obama without Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer.

“Leadership” doesn’t quite capture the fullness of her role. To us, at The Raben Group, she’s a revolutionary war hero in the ongoing struggle for all to be free and equal. She reminds us that the most important variable for change is vision — giving people a visceral and emotional sense that what we dream is achievable.

With our support, The Ford Foundation and renowned historian Dr. Keisha Blain held a symposium on the 105th anniversary of Ms. Hamer’s birth — drawing attention to her work, her intersectionality, and her many accomplishments

Ms. Hamer had a vision of an America where all people had a place among the powerful. It is our honor to celebrate her, to learn from her, and to continue the long fight of making her vision a reality.

— Robert Raben