Miss Fannie Lou Hamer
“God had already told me to move on, so I wasn’t there that night” Fannie Lou Hamer wrote these words after 16 shots were fired into a home she slept in supposedly for safety. Why did Miss Fannie need safety? She had done something most of us have done at some point, she registered to vote. Can you imagine wanting to kill someone because they registered to vote? That’s Mississippi in my lifetime, the 1960’s.
Fannie Lou Hamer began picking cotton at age 6. She was the youngest of 20. (you read that right) She wasn’t a slave, although that sounds like it. She was a young girl who saw a lot in her young life, more than a young person should endure. Along the way she relied on the LORD for strength. She soon became a source of encouragement. As word spread of yet another lynching or KKK riot, she would start singing, soothing the hurt of the people she was around.
Upon marriage to Pap Hamer, she started to get more active politically. She went to register to vote, or as she put it, “just another way of asking to die”. In fact she had this kind of matter of fact rationale: “The only thing they could do was to kill me, and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time long as I could remember.” She got kicked off the plantation for this “sin” and went to stay with the Tucker family. It was that night the 16 shots were fired into the house. But she had work to do and as she pointed out it wasn’t her time.
Fannie and some others were then taken to jail. A friend was given the nightstick by the jailor and told to beat her. Out of fear for her own life she began beating Miss Fannie. Here is her account of the beating:
“…Then three white men came into my room. One was a state highway policeman (he had the marking on his sleeve)… They said they were going to make me wish I was dead. They made me lay down on my face and they ordered two Negro prisoners to beat me with a blackjack. That was unbearable. The first prisoner beat me until he was exhausted, then the second Negro began to beat me. I had polio when I was about six years old. I was limp. I was holding my hands behind me to protect my weak side. I began to work my feet. My dress pulled up and I tried to smooth it down. One of the policemen walked over and raised my dress as high as he could. They beat me until my body was hard, ’til I couldn’t bend my fingers or get up when they told me to. That’s how I got this blood clot in my eye – the sight’s nearly gone now. My kidney was injured from the blows they gave me on the back.”
Miss Fannie prayed during the beatings, “father please forgive these men for what they’re doing”.
Miss Fannie Lou Hamer, a great African American Christian indeed teaching us how to handle adversity in a Christlike way. When we become believers the Holy Spirit produces fruit. Think of the fruits of the spirit, Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering. She demonstrated these in the actions described above. There’s lots more I could write, but I will let you look her up yourself.