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Mrs. Hamer Echoes


Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, spoke words that are all too relevant today. Mrs. Hamer would have turned 100 years old on October 6th 2017. Today on Making Contact, you’ll hear archival recordings, and excerpts from a powerful new film featuring Fannie Lou Hamer’s contemporaries– themselves now elders. You’ll hear about the context of her life, and the lives of other sharecroppers in Mississippi from a seldom heard film produced for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC.

Special thanks for music to our listener, Lisa E. Williams, for lending us her tune “Julia”.  TRANSCRIPT available below –thanks to volunteers!

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Featuring:

  • Amzie Moore, SNCC, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • Dorie Ladner and Heather Booth, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • Reverend Leslie McLemore, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
  • Sharecroppers
  • Fannie Lou Hamer

Credits:

  • Host: Anita Johnson
  • Editing Assistant: Emily Harris
  • Producers: Anita Johnson, Marie Choi, Monica Lopez, R.J. Lozada
  • Executive Director: Lisa Rudman
  • Audience Engagement Director/Web Editor: Sabine Blaizin
  • Development Associate: Vera Tykulsker

 

Music:

  • Original Music  – Lisa E. Williams
  • Music from Robin Hamilton’s film –  Mathew Prins, Josh Kramer, Fred Capo, Cinquequarti, ArtTune Tech, Pond 5 Music
  • Fannie Lou Hamer – Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • Prelude 1  – Chris Zabriskie
  • Caravan – Blue Dot Session
  • Ergo Phizmiz
  • Cory Gray

More Information:

TRANSCRIPT

Collage of bites with simple ambient music under.

  • I think a man should be impeached when they are not really dealing with the people
  • My soul is tired white folks, of what you have done to us
  • If this society of yours is a Great Society, God knows I would hate to live in a bad one.” applause…
  • We are SICK and TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED. And we are tired of people saying that we’re satisfied because we are everything but satisfied.  
  • I’ve heard lots about “with the people for the people by the people but it’s by a Handful with a handful For an Handful!
  • A House divided cannot stand, a nation divided cannot stand ( from We’re on our way speech)
  • “All across country we have young people very aware”
  • Every dollar bill’s got a politician on

NARR 01  Anita Johnson

Who is that woman. Is she speaking 50 years ago or today? I’m Anita Johnson and that’s the voice of Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, with words that are all too relevant today. She was a survivor and an organizer

Music

NARR 02

Mrs Hamer would have turned 100 years old on October 6th two-thousand and seventeen. Today on Making Contact, you’ll hear archival recordings, and excerpts from a powerful new film featuring Fannie Lou Hamer’s contemporaries– themselves now elders.

But first you’ll hear about the context of her life, and the lives of other sharecroppers, in Mississippi, 60 years ago.

“Dream Deferred” was an outreach film made in 1964 by Harvey Richards together with  members for the The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. SNCC’s Amzie Moore introduces the sharecroppers and their situation:

 

01 DD Dream Deferred

Amzie Moore “ I wonder about 150,000 people in the 18 delta counties, i just keep wondering how they are gonna eat, and what they’re going to wear–because they have no money no food no clothing, they have no way to buy food and clothing. There’s no work on the farm for them to do because of the mechanical cotton picker has taken the job of picking cotton and we have the premerge that is killing the weeds and they can’t chop no more…

thru Woman Sharecropper #1 for :57 We are farming people here in MS and we rent land and at end of the year most of our earnings goes to pay rent… and most of what we make goes to rent  –so much fertilizer, so much poison OUT –the white man gets most of the money and we don’t have any left …Need food and clothing for our kids.

Harvey Richards Filmmaker and narrator-– to understand relations between black and white in MS, one must understand the ventral role of violence. Violence in many forms. Aimless violence by a white citizen who beats a negro for a lark; purposeful violence by a gang of whites who drive by the home of a sharecropper who seeks to vote and fire a dozen shots into his living room. One must understand that violence from whites, both police and private citizens against blacks is part of the southern way of life. Finally one must understand that violence against the negro, from whatever source receives no legal redress, not from the patrolman or the deputy sheriff, not from the local prosecutor or the judge.

 

Sharecropper: “To my idea of a negro in the state of MS, not only in Tallahatchie county, in the state of MS, he don’t stand a chance of a rabbit; you have to buy a license to kill a rabbit but you don’t have to buy anything  to kill a negro. We don’t have no rights at all in MS. We can’t even have a white man arrested for doing anything to you. If he happened to If a negro happened to steal a chicken from him he’s get 10 to 20 years or probably lifetime in the penitentiary –He could kill you mother, or your baby, anything, he don’t get no time at all and won’t even get punished for it.  You can’t even have him arrested, and you can’t even talk to the sheriff  

Music from Dream Deffered “oh freedom come right now”

NARR 03

Fannie Lou Hamer’s roots were in the community described in Harvey Richard’s SNCC film.  She started picking cotton at age 6, and lived as a sharecropper and timekeeper on a plantation in Sunflower county. She was deeply religious.

Her adopted daughter believes Mrs. Hamer became woke in her activism after she discovered she’d been sterilized without her consent by a white doctor. So when the SNCC voter registration drives began, she joined in— and she always said the only way they’ll get me outta the movement is to kill me.

 FANNIE LOU HAMER

We want leaders in our community. And what people will say, say, “Well, if we can get rid of Fannie Lou,” said, “we can get rid of the trouble.” But what they don’t know, freedom is like an eating cancer, if you kill me, it will break out all over the place.

 

NARR  04    

In a soon-to-be released film by Robin Hamilton, entitled This Little Light of Mine: the Legacy of Fannie Lou Hammer, we hear from her fellow civil rights activists. Dorie Ladner and Heather Booth were in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And Reverend Leslie McLemore and Rev. Ed King worked with Mrs. Hamer in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.  He recalls:

Rev McLemore: The lynchpin  in the changes of the rules of the Democratic National convention reside in the testimony of Mrs Hamer.

Dori Ladner: “Well Mrs. Hamer’s position was that if we don’t have the right to vote, we can’t talk because she realized that the power was in the political process in the vote.”

Piano music from our listener Lisa E. Williams

Dori Ladner:

 I met Mrs Hamer in a mass mtng and shortly after then we went to the courthouse to register to vote. We took a whole busload of people in a yellow school bus to the Indianola courthouse to register to vote, and stayed there all day long. And you are at their mercy, the police are standing there outside the door with the billy clubs, you know the sheriffs and so forth, so you’re in an intimidating situation to begin with when you get the nerve to go into the courthouse.”

Heather Booth:  So you couldn’t  register in the regular system, let alone the poll taxes and the literacy tests that were totally rigged to allow white people to be able to register and to prevent black people from registering. You know asking questions like how many  bubbles in a bar of Ivory soap, or what does section 309 mean in the Mississippi constitution, without looking at a copy of the constitution there, whereas white people might simple be asked “what’s your name and where do you live?”

NARR 05  

It was within this context, that on August thirty-first of 1962, Mrs.Fannie Lou Hamer took the test and tried to register to vote. She got on the bus, and headed home to her bare-bones shack next to the fields, where she was confronted by the plantation owner, Mr. Marlowe:

 

Fannie Lou Hamer:

 He said, “Well, Fannie Lou,” said, “you will have to go down and withdraw or you will have to leave.”     And I addressed and told him, as we have always had to say, “Mister,” I say, “I didn’t register for you,” I say, “I was trying to register for myself.”

 He said We’re not ready for that in Mississippi —He’s not ready but i’ve been ready for a long time. —I had to leave that same night.   On the tenth of September in 1962, sixteen bullets was fired into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker for me. …Now, the question I raise: is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave? Where people are being murdered, lynched, and killed, because we want to register and vote?

 

Rev McLemore:  “I first met Mrs. Hamer in the winter of 1963 after she had been evicted from the Marlowe plantation. We got to know each other through the workshops because they were all day and signing at night after dinner, and Fannie Lou Hamer just emerged person on the spot. I mean with the singing and the talking, with the role playing and just her presence …

 

Music

 

Dori Ladner: I was overpowered because of her voice; she had this magnetic voice. She’d throw her head back and start singing.

Rev McLemore: Music was such an important part of the movement and the music, it really set the stage for a lot of the mass meetings because there was always singing before the mass meeting; i mean the really good mass meetings.

Music  

NARR BREAK:

That’s the voice of Fannie Lou Hamer in 1964, with echoes for today. and you’re listening to “Making Contact.” To hear this entire program and others check out our website radioproject.org.  Subscribe to our podcast. Sign up for Making Contact updates, take our survey, or join the conversation on Facebook or twitter!

Music instrumental button

NARR 06  

As she emerged to be a leader, Fannie Lou Hamer felt that the only way thousands of Black people in Mississippi were going to be able to vote, was to register—- and the only way to register was with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. So she fought for that party to be recognized as part of the Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National convention.

 

Heather Booth: So we started to register people for the MS Freedom Democratic Party, and Mrs. Hamer and Rev. King were the two co-chairs of that party. And our goal then was to get representation of the integrated delegation at the Democratic convention which was being held in Atlantic City.

 

Rev. Ed King: But we worked out in advance what Martin was gonna say and what i was gonna say as a white Mississippian was violence that had been directed to me and to others, and describe the violence. And that got too much for the white delegation and they tried to shut me up.

Archival footage: “I have been imprisoned, I have been beaten I have been close to death”-————-that was a mistake on their part because they knew they couldn’t shut up Martin Luther King, but they weren’t paying any attention to who this woman might be, and they didn’t know she was going to be more than Martin. We weren’t even sure it was going to be broadcast. We prepared it… so she wasn’t trying to be a media star to the nation —we really thought they won’t carry it at all. Lyndon Johnson wanted it stopped and wanted other messages

 

Rev McLemore: yes there was controversy, Lyndon Johnson reportedly said “get that woman offa TV Don’t have her back on television again.”

Rev. King: but because of the hostility towards her, the media presented more of what she had to say.

 

Fannie Lou Hamer: All of this is 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.

 

McLemore: She brought to the fore the Freedom Democratic party what it meant what it stood for and the people. So she shined a certain light on the people in the room.But what she did, she brought special attention to all of us who were delegates. All of us who were from Mississippi.

 

Music

Rev. King: At the convention, Humphrey was explaining to us that Johnson had said he could become Vice President if the convention didn’t blow up, and that we had to be stopped. So Humphrey is begging and he knew she was the one he had to convince, not me. And then he said you folks have got to help me. I must have this job. And she said “Senator Humphrey, I worked on Mr Marlowe’s plantation in Sunflower County home of Senator Easland, and when i tried to register to vote i lost my job, and Pap, my husband, they fired him just because of me. And then they made us move outta the house.  (she then moved in with some local people and they shot into the homes where she was staying) and then she said “Senator Humphrey, I’m here though, god’s taking care of me –Senator Humphrey don’t worry, if you lose this job of Vice President god’s gonna take care of you!”  That ended the conversation and she was excluded from the final negotiations.
NARR 07  

Fannie Lou Hamer testified at the pre-convention about an incident she recounted many times. June ninth, 1963, Fannie Lou Hamer had been at a voter education workshop in South Carolina. When she entered back  into the state of Mississippi, her group’s bus paused at a rest stop. They were ambushed by the police. Six of them were taken to the Winona Jail:

 

Fannie Lou Hamer interviewed by Colin Edwards

“ and i was put in a cell w/ Evesta Simpson. And after I was put in this cell I could just  hear some horrible screams and horrible sounds you know of licks. And i saw one of the girls was 15 yrs old was with us, when she passed my cell and she was real bloody. And they asked a little man that cleaned up the jail to go inside and mop up that blood.

 

And then i heard some more screaming, and i heard some awful sounds, and i would hear somebody when they said “can’t you say yes sir nigger, can’t you say yes sir?” and they would call her names (that i wouldn’t want to go on tape) and she said “yes i can say yes sir” so they said “say it!” and she said “I don’t know you well enough.” And i would hear when she would hit the floor again, and finally she began to pray, and she asked god to have mercy on these people cuz they didn’t  know they what they was doing. And after awhile they passed my cell door with this young woman Miss Anelle Punder, and one of her eyes looked like blood, and her hair was standing up on her head and her clothes had been torn from the shoulder down to the waist.

 

And then three white men came to my cell, and one of them was a state highway patrolman because he was wearing a little silver plate across his pocket that said John L. Bassinger. And he asked me where i was from and i told him i was from Ruleville. And he said I’m gonna check that. And he went out, and i guess he called Ruleville, and they didn’t like me in Ruleville because i worked with voter registration there. And when he came back he said “you’re damn right,” he said “you’re from Ruleville alright  and we’re gonna make you wish you was dead.”

 

And they led me out of that cell into another cell. And he gave a Negro prisoner a blackjack and he ordered me to  me lay down on the bunk bed. And the Negro prisoner said “do you want me to beat her with this sir” And he said “You’re damn right, because if you don’t you know what I’ll do for you.”

 

And I laid down on the bunk like he ordered me to d,o and the first negro beat me. He beat me until he was exhausted. And after he beat, the state highway patrolman ordered the second negro to take the blackjack. And in the time he was beating, I began to work my feet because that was a horrible experience. And the state highway patrolman ordered the first negro that had beat to sit on my feet while the second one beat. And i just began to scream where i couldn’t control it .

 

And then the white man got up and began to beat me in my head. I have a blood clot in  the artery to the left eye and permanent kidney injury on the right side from that beating. These are the things we go through in Mississippi just trying to be treated as a human being—  but still this is called a part of America.”

 

NARR 08  

Fannie Lou Hamer shared her experience of  being jailed and beaten, and became known around the world (although today’s history books may not reflect that.  She was in dialog with many facets of the Black struggle including her friend Malcolm X, and groups defending their communities with arms such as the Deacons for Defense.

 

Fannie Lou Hamer

I respect those people because they are doing what i believe every Negro under the heaven feels if he doesn’t have the guts to say it….

 …People have different feelings about Dr.{Martin Luther}  King…But Dr. King’s organization do have some great people like Mrs. Septima  P. Clark that wrote the book Echoes In My Soul

Is a great woman and there’s quite a few other people that I admire in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and respect, but uh I take this stand with any person, uh, a person that was born in the middle class that have never had to suffer, you know, he can afford to take things maybe easier than I can,  and all I’ve ever done is suffer you see and uh, and fight. A person is born in the middle class, and has always had things somewhat decent, he can’t make a decision for me because he actually don’t know how I feel.

I don’t see all people as bad….if we didn’t have some good white people there wouldn’t be anyone standing up, you know trying to help bring about a change and make things better not only for the Negro but it would benefit every human being in this country if we was just free.

 

NARR 9   

Fannie Lou Hamer spoke out on Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Human rights, and anti-poverty.  In 1969 Claude Marks of the Freedom Archives recorded Mrs. Hammer discussing the racism of the  U.S. war in Vietnam, and the displacement of people of color in what was then termed “urban renewal.”

 

Fannie Lou Hamer

Because people now no longer believe in a lot of the stuff they been reading. You know, I was really shocked, I got to go into a lot—a little of our history to come back to Vietnam and our policy. The truth hadn’t been told to us no way. Because I was really shocked when I found out that Columbus didn’t discover America, when he got here it was some black brothers said: “Get on off honey, and tell us where you want to go.”

           You kept too many things hidden, not only from my kids, but you kept them from your kids. That’s the reason why your own kids is rebelling against you because of a sick system. But we want the boys—you know I don’t think that we have time to say, “Well, we can get them out after another million is killed.” We want the fellows to come home, now!

           And you know I do believe with this kind of audience, and I think it’s this kind of audience in other places, I think a man should be impeached when they are not really dealing with the people.   

           And I want to say, I want to say to you white America, you can’t destroy me because I’m black to save your life, without destroying yourself.

[member of the crowd shouts: “We don’t want to destroy you.”]

Alright, well we want to have peace, we want to have peace, and the only way that we can have peace is to bring the boys home from Vietnam, start dealing with the problems in the United States, stop all of this urban renewal and model cities that’s pushing people out of a place to stay and start dealing with facts of life.

           It’s a lot of people, it’s a lot of people that said: “Well, forget about politics.” But, baby, what we eat is politics. ( And I’m not going to forget no politic. Because in 1972, when I go to Washington as Senator Hamer from Mississippi, you going to know it’s going to be some changes made. Because we are going to change Mississippi.)

 

NARR  10

Now, let’s give Fannie Lou Hamer the last word…

 

Fannie Lou Hamer

And we’re on our way now; we’re on our way and we won’t turn around.

            We have moaned a long time in Mississippi. And he said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” And there’s no race in America that’s no meeker than the Negro. We’re the only race in America that has had babies sold from our breast, which was slavery time. And had mothers sold from their babes. And we’re the only race in America that had one man had to march through a mob crew just to go to school, which was James H. Meredith. We don’t have anything to be ashamed of. All we have to do is trust God and launch and out into the deep.    You can pray until you faint, but if you don’t get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.

 

Music

 

NARR 11 Credits see above on website page

 

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