I'm Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
March 14, 1977 - Fannie Lou Hamer died on this day. She was the granddaughter of slaves who grew up to be a freedom fighter.
Born in 1917, Fannie was the youngest of 20 children. She survived polio and suffered through many acts of discrimination. In 1962 she was almost beaten to death by police while she worked with a group that was trying to register black voters. The injuries only strengthened her resolve as Fannie dedicated herself to the cause of civil rights. She received death threats and someone even took a shot at her, but Fannie never gave up.
Fannie co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and in 1964 it challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation at the Democratic National Convention. As she spoke before the credentials committee, Fannie said:
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 hook, because our lives be threatened daily?
Fearing a rise in racial tensions, President Johnson called an emergency news conference in hopes of keeping Fannie's speech off the television. But many networks carried her complete statement during their evening news programs and switchboards lit up with callers wanting to support The Freedom Democratic Party.
Senator Hubert Humphrey was dispatched to negotiate a deal, but his watered-down compromise was rejected by Fannie in dramatic fashion:
Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for you.
The Freedom Democrats never accepted the compromise, but thanks to Fannie's determination and an outpouring of unprecedented support, the Democratic Party adopted a clause demanding equality of representation from its delegations.
In her later years, Fannie continued to work toward the goal of giving black Americans the same opportunities as whites. Sadly, her life was cut short by cancer.
Her tombstone carries one of her trademark expressions:
I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.