Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves

By Kevin Bales | Go to book overview

4
Home-Grown Freedom

We’re never going to get there, unless we all go together.

FANNIE LOU HAMER

Fannie Lou Hamer is one of my heroes. The granddaughter of slaves, she grew up as a sharecropper in rural Mississippi. In 1962, when she was forty-four years old, civil rights workers came to her little Delta town, and she learned a secret that had been kept from her all her life: she had a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. When the civil rights workers asked for volunteers for the dangerous job of going to the courthouse to register to vote, her hand was the first to shoot into the air. For trying to register to vote, she was thrown off the land she farmed, shot at, threatened, beaten by the police, and jailed, but she, and many others in her community, never gave up. She later said, “The only thing they could do to me was to kill me, and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.” African Americans in towns like hers all across the Deep South began to organize nonviolent resistance, including boycotts, sit-ins, and teach-ins, and they kept turning up to register to vote time after time, no matter how much abuse they suffered. Fannie Lou Hamer may be best known for her statement about life under the segregationists in the South: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” But the words that I remember best are her pronouncement on freedom: “We’re never going to get there, unless we all go together.”

-61-

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