Fannie Lou Hamer
For the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
Democratic National Convention, 1964
Mr Chairman, and the Credentials Committee, my name is
Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, and I live at 626 East Lafayette Street, Ruleville,
Mississippi, Sunflower County, the home of Senator James O. Eastland, and
Senator [John] Stennis.
It was the 31st of August in 1952 that eighteen of us
traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register
to become first-class citizens. We was met in Indianola by Mississippi
men, highway patrolmens, and they only allowed tow of us in to take the literacy
test at the time. After we had taken this test and started back to
Ruleville, we was held up by the City Police and the State Highway Patrolmen
and carried back to Indianola, where the bus driver was charged that day
with driving a bus the wrong color.
After we paid the fine among us, we continue on to Ruleville,
and Reverend Jeff Sunny carried me 4 miles in the rural area where I had
worked as a timekeeper and sharecropper for 18 years. I was met there
by my children, who told me the plantation owner was angry because I had
gone down to register. After they told me, my husband came, and said the
plantation owner was raising Cain because I had tried to register, and before
he quit talking the plantation owner came, and said, "Fannie Lou, do you
know–did Pap tell you what I said?"
I said, "Yes, sir."
He said, "I mean that," he said, "If you don't go down
and withdraw your registration, you will have to leave," said, "Then if you
go down and withdraw," he said. "You will–you might have to go because
we are not ready for that in Mississippi."
And I addressed myself to him and said, "I didn't try
to register for you. I tried to register for myself." I had to leave
that same night.
On the tenth of September, 1962, sixteen bullets was fired
into the home of Mr. And Mrs. Robert Tucker for me. That same night
two girls were shot in Ruleville, Mississippi. Also Mr. Joe McDonald's
house was shot in.
And in June, the 9th, 1963, I had attended a voter registration
workshop, was returning back to Mississippi. Ten of us was traveling
by the Continental Trailway bus. When we got to Winona, Mississippi,
which is in Montgomery county, four of the people got off to use the washroom,
and two of the people–to use the restaurant–two of the people wanted to use
the washroom. The four people that had gone in to use the restaurant
was ordered out. During this time I was on the bus. But when
I looked through the window and saw they had rushed out, I got off of the
bus to see what had happened, and one of the ladies said, "It was a state
highway patrolman and a chief of police ordered us out."
I got back on the bus and one of the persons had used
the washroom got back on the bus, too. As soon as I was seated on the
bus, I saw when they began to get the four people in a highway patrolman's
car. I stepped off the bus to see what was happening and somebody screamed
from the car that the four workers was in and said, "Get that one there,"
and when I went to get in the car, when the man told me I was under arrest,
he kicked me.
I was carried to the county jail, and put in the booking
room. They left some of the people in the booking room and began to
place us in cells. I was placed in a cell with a young woman called
Miss Euvester Simpson. After I was placed in the cell I began to hear
sounds of licks an screams. I could hear the sounds of licks and horrible
screams, and I could hear somebody say, "Can you say, yes sir, nigger?
Can you say yes, sir?"
And they would say other horrible names. She would
say, "Yes, I can say yes, sir."
"So say it."
She says, "I don't know you well enough."
They beat her, I don't know how long, and after a while
she began to pray, and asked God to have mercy on those people.
And it wasn't too long before three white men came to
my cell. One of these men was a State Highway Patrolman and he asked
me where I was from, and I told him Ruleville. He said, "We are going
to check this." And they left my cell and it wasn't too long before
they came back. He said, "You are from Ruleville all right," and he used
a curse word, and he said, "We are going to make you wish you was dead."
I was carried out of that cell into another cell where
they had two Negro prisoners. The State Highway Patrolman ordered the
first Negro to take the blackjack. The first Negro prisoner ordered me, by
orders from the State Highway Patrolman for me, to lay down on a bunk bed
on my face, and I laid on my face. The first Negro began to beat, and
I was bat by the first Negro until he was exhausted, and I was holding my
hands behind me at that time on my left side because I suffered from polio
when I was 6 years old. After the first Negro had beat me until he
was exhausted, the State Highway Patrolman ordered the second Negro to take
The second Negro began to beat and I began to work my
feet, an the State Highway Patrolman ordered the first Negro who had beat
me to set on my feet to keep me from working my feet. I began to scream and
one white man got up and began to beat me in my head and tell me to hush.
One white man–my dress had worked up high, he walked over and pulled my dress
down–and he pulled my dress back, back up.
I was in jail when Edgar Evers was murdered.
(There was a slight pause. Tears were welling in
her eyes, but she went on.)
All of this is on account we want to register, to become
first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now,
I question America, is this America, the land of the free and the home of
the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because
our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings,