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Fannie Lou Hamer

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McMillen: When did you get involved actively in the civil rights movement, other than simply trying to vote? When did you become a civil rights worker?

Hamer: Well, all of that went together, because as soon as I was fired from that plantation, I started right away then working on voter registration. It just kind of materialized together. I didn't have anything else to do.

McMillen: Did you work for SNCC?

Hamer: I worked for SNCC. In fact, I worked not only for SNCC, I worked for COFO, Council of Federated Organizations, so all organizations were together. But I was first hired to work for SNCC.

McMillen: And that was ten dollars a week if they had $10?

Hamer: If they had the money; that's right.

McMillen: Did SNCC often have the ten dollars?

Hamer: Not when I first started.

McMillen: How did you SNCC fieldworkers survive with so little money?

Hamer: Well, it was really survive, because so many times we didn't have nothing. A few friends would help kind of tide us over; and this man I was talking about you doing an interview with him, he was like a real father to me, because they would try to keep our gas bills and important bills paid. . .

McMillen: . . .Talk about your activities as a voter registration worker in the early period.

Hamer: Well, it was rough because we would go to places, go in to do voter registration in places, and we talked to people. We would walk the streets in different little areas, and we would tell them we were coming back the next day. And by the next day somebody would be done got to them, and they wouldn't want to talk with us, and this kind of stuff. Some days it would be disgusting, some very disappointing. Some very disappointing. Then we'd go to churches, and occasionally along, they was burning up churches. These are the kinds of things we faced.

McMillen: Who would get to the people you talked to?

Hamer: Well, you know, like the landowners. The white people would get to them, and then they would tell them. We would work on them with food, too. We were trying to get people to get commodities; all of that went together, because at that point it was really rough. . .


Hamer attended the 1964 National Democratic Convention to unseat Mississippi's all-white so-called ≥Regular≤ Democratic Party. Here, Hamer discusses the Credential Committee hearing at the convention which offered Hamer and other black Mississippi delegates two seats in the Mississippi delegation.

McMillen:What, in essence, did you tell the Credentials Committee? Could you sort of summarize what your testimony was?

Hamer: Well, the whole thing was around what had happened to me when I tried to register. The whole thing, that's what it was about. The whole speech was centered around me trying to register and what had happened to me after I tried. That's what I was talking about.

McMillen: Why didn't you accept what Dr. King and A. Phillip Randolph and Hubert Humphrey and everybody else wanted you to accept? Why didn't you accept those two seats?

Hamer: Well, to me--you know, it might sound funny and strange, but to me that wasn't nothing! You know it wasn't nothing, and that's the beginning of my learning of politics. Now, I learned politics at its fullest--well, that's where politics was in 1964 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I will never forget what they put us through. You see, by me being a Mississippi housewife and never exposed to politics, or nothing else too much, because I was just a housewife, a farmer, and they couldn't understand why that we had to--we didn't feel like that we had to take other people's word. So, they first began to kind of drill us on this when they told us, you know, that Dr. King--now Dr. King, this was funny, too, because at first he had said that what we were doing was right and he'd help us carry it out. But it began to be pressure brought about on different people, you know. Like President Johnson, I would hear them talking about all of this big funeral of his, but I'll never forget him either. Because the time [that] I was testifying, it was a man there, very close, that told me that he said to get--told them people with the cameras "to get that goddamn television off them niggers from Mississippi" and put it back on the convention, because, see, the world was hearing too much.

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Published with permission from the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage
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