Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Civil Rights and Voting Rights trailblazer Fannie Lou Hamer is well known for her activism.  Hamer was unrelenting in her efforts to secure economic and political freedom for black people living in the Mississippi delta.  Hamer was around 45 when she became active in the civil rights movement.  Her organizing and efforts resulted in her and her husband being fired from their employment as sharecroppers.  Hamer fought tirelessly until she died in 1977.  She was only 59 years old.  Many people may be unaware that she died from breast cancer.  After a radical mastectomy, Hamer would stuff her bra with socks, unable to afford a prosthesis. Friend and fellow civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes-Norton had her fitted for a prosthesis since she could not afford it. 

According to the American Cancer Society, “Blacks have the highest death rate and the lowest survival rates for cancer.  These rates reflect socio-economic, racial, and healthcare access disparities.  The American Cancer Society also reports that about 1 in 3 black people will be diagnosed with cancer and about 1 in 5 will die from cancer.  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among black women. 

Even prior to being diagnosed with cancer, Hamer was sterilized without her consent.  Sterilization was employed as a form of population control for poor women and women of color.  The process was so frequent that Hamer referred to is a “A Mississippi Appendectomy.”  

The video, “The Tragic Real Life Story of Fannie Lou Hammer” shares more about her life. “Tragic” is certainly not the way we would chose to remember the life of this heroic woman! She was courageous, fearless and a force to be reckoned with in so many ways. When we think about modern voting rights advocates like Stacy Abrams, we should also remember and honor the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer!