We been down so long, we ain't go no other way to go but up!
(cheering) NATASHA DEL TORO: An icon of civil rights history tells her own story in words and song.
FANNIE LOU HAMER: I question America.
Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave?
SINGERS: ♪ I want Jesus If I hate you because you hate me, I'm no better than you are.
SINGERS: ♪ To walk with me DEL TORO: "Fannie Lou Hamer's America."
The following program contains mature content, including racial epithets used in historical context and descriptions of violence.
Viewer discretion is advised.
(people clapping in rhythm, chanting in archival footage) HAMER: The whole world is watching us today.
♪ I am an old pilgrim of sorrow ♪ We are tired, we are tired of a lot of things.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
(crowd murmuring agreement) I feel better than I've felt in a long time.
(audience laughs) 'Cause all of these people here, we got to do something.
(audience cheering) And we've been down so long, we ain't got no other way to go but up.
(cheering) HAMER: It was 40 million of my people destroyed, as they was bringing my ancestors here on the slave ships of Africa.
(waves splashing, seagull squawking) I can forgive, easily, a lot of things, but when white America is taking my name, that was a crime.
My name is Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.
I'm Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.
One day, you will be proud when you can say, "Senator Fannie Lou Hamer," 'cause I'm on my way, baby.
(audience cheering) Freedom is not something that's put in your lap.
You've got to stand up.
(audience cheering) I've been beaten in jail till my body was hard as metal, but I'm not stopping.
♪ The flag is, is drenched with our blood.
Because, you see, we have never accepted slavery.
(people singing hymn) ♪ They know what they've done to us.
All across this country, they know what they've done to us.
(hymn continues) I question America.
Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave?
SINGERS: ♪ I want Jesus ♪ To walk with me MAN: Amen.
♪ MAN: When and where were you born?
HAMER: I was born 1917 in Montgomery County.
MAN: You was born on a plantation?
HAMER: I guess I was.
MAN: You know the name of the plantation?
HAMER: No, I don't.
I know my parents moved from Montgomery County when I was two years old, and then moved to Sunflower County.
You come to the plantation then?
HAMER: Yes, my parents moved on a plantation.
When I was two, they moved with a landowner about four miles and a half from here, a Mr. Wilbur Brandon's plantation.
And that's where my father and my mother worked as sharecroppers for quite a long time.
♪ ♪ Sheep herd, sheep herd, where your little lamb?
♪ ♪ Way down in the valley ♪ Birds and butterflies picking at his eye ♪ ♪ And the poor little thing, it cried, "Mama" ♪ ♪ Mama's gone, Papa's gone ♪ They shall bring some horses ♪ White and black, speckled and gray ♪ ♪ All them pretty little horses ♪ ♪ When you wake, you'll eat a pancake ♪ ♪ And ride a pretty little pony ♪ ♪ Go to sleep, go to sleep ♪ Go to sleep, little baby ♪ Mama run away, Papa wouldn't stay ♪ ♪ Left nobody but the baby ♪ ♪ Go to sleep... We are tired.
We are sick and tired of children suffering from malnutrition.
The clothes two-thirds of the people have on here now is clothes was been sent to 'em!
We are tired of that!
(audience applauding) We are tired, we are tired of a lot of things.
We are tired of working for three measly dollars a day!
(audience whooping) Going home and being too tired to cook what little we did have.
(audience cheers and applauds) Because we have been hungry.
We have been taught to have dignity and respect.
And you know if we're going through being bit by dogs... (audience exclaims) Some of them being shot down... (audience exclaims) Some of them being beat in jail... (audience exclaims) We are not fighting back, but we going on because there's nothing right here.
(audience cheers and applauds) What other nation have gone through what we've gone through?
You never heard of no other race but a Negro that marched through a mob crew just to go to school.
(audience cheers and applauds) Why?
(audience cheers and applauds) We work all time and never have enough food.
I said, but the white man be riding around in fine cars.
(audience exclaims) I said, and they have plenty to eat, but I didn't realize at the time he was stealing it from me.
(audience applauds, fading) Being one of 20 children, a very poor family, sharecroppers in the state of Mississippi, I know what it's like to be hungry.
I know what it's like to be without clothes.
I know what it's like to be without food, to live in a three-room house with no washroom facilities.
Just a three-room shack.
So in my earliest childhood, I remember, one day, I was playing beside this road and the landowner drove up, and he asked me, could I pick cotton?
And I told him I didn't know.
I didn't know-- at six years old, you know, I just didn't know.
So he told us, "I want you to go out in the field, Fannie, "and I want you to pick 30 pounds of cotton.
"And if you pick 30 pounds of cotton in a week, "I'll carry you to my commissary store, and I'll let you get some of the things that you want to eat."
Said, "Don't you like Cracker Jack?"
That was exciting, because I'd never had them.
So I went out in the field, and I told my parents.
And my mother asked me, did I want to try it?
And I told her I did.
And she told me, said, "Now, we won't let you cheat.
"If you pick it, "we'll say you picked it.
But if you don't pick it, you don't get it."
So this made me work very hard, but that week I did pick 30 pounds of cotton.
That Saturday, the landowner did keep his promise.
He carried me to this commissary store.
And he gave me some Cracker Jacks and cheese, and the daddy wide leg sardines.
But I didn't realize what he was doing other than that, because the next week, I was tasked 60 pounds of cotton.
By the time I was 13 years old, I was picking 200 and 300 pounds of cotton.
♪ BOY: I am 17 years old.
I pick 300 pounds of cotton a day.
CHILD: I am nine years old, I help my mother pick cotton.
I pick 100 by day.
CHILD: I am 14 years old, and I help my mother pick cotton.
I can pick about 200 every day.
♪ HAMER: Now, at first, I, I really couldn't understand what it was that made us never have enough food.
We worked all the time, but we never had enough to eat.
We never had a chance to go to school.
♪ So my first reaction to my parents, especially to my mother, was to raise the question to her, and asked her how come we wasn't white.
Now, that was my first of really being told off and read off at the same time, because my mother told me... Said, "Child, you don't understand what I'm saying now, "but as you get older, you will understand.
"There's nothing wrong with you being Black.
And I don't want you to forget that."
Said, "If you had, God had wanted you to be another color, you would've been another color."
Said, "Don't be ashamed of being Black, "and respect yourself as a child.
"And as you get older, respect yourself as a Black woman.
"You might not understand what I'm saying now, but one day, you will understand."
Then finally, my mother bought me the first Black doll I had ever seen.
But the only doll that she ever bought me was a Black doll.
And what my mother was doing, I couldn't understand it then, but I understand now.
She was at that time teaching me to respect myself.
♪ My mother's mother had 23 children, 20 boys and three girls.
She was a slave.
♪ And we know as well as you know that this country was built on the blood and the sweat of Black people.
And all we are saying to you today, now, what you have done in the past, you've done that.
But we can't let you get away with it, with just trying to wipe us out as human beings.
♪ When I was about 13, I began to understand what my mother was talking about, and I prayed to God to give me the chance, and I told him if he would just let me live to get grown, I would get out in the streets, and on the turnrows, and I would devote my life for seeing that things would be different for any poor person in the state of Mississippi.
We have always been taught that we have to suffer as Christ suffered, but I think in terms of what David had to do.
David was a shepherd boy, but it did come a time in his life he had to slay Goliath.
♪ Jump down, turn around ♪ Pick a bale of cotton ♪ Jump down, turn around ♪ Pick a bale a day ♪ Oh, Lord ♪ Oh, pick a bale of cotton, oh, Lord ♪ ♪ Pick a bale a day ♪ Jump down, turn around ♪ And pick a bale of cotton, jump down, turn around ♪ ♪ And pick a bale a day ♪ Jump down, turn around and pick a bale of cotton ♪ ♪ Jump down, turn around and pick a bale a day ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord, pick a bale of cotton ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord, pick a bale a day So in 1962, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came into Ruleville.
That Monday night, I went over here, right around the corner here, to this church, William Chapel.
And the pastor announced at the end of service that there would be a mass meeting that night, that Monday night.
My husband drove me from out in the rural area, where I had been working, to the church, and when we got there, Bob Moses, Lawrence Guyot, Reggie Robinson, James Bevel, Jim Forman, from SNCC, got up and explained how it was our constitutional right to register and vote, and how it could change, you know, the different laws, like, if we didn't want a law in the town or what was going on, we could vote them out.
So that, I thought it was the most remarkable thing that could happen in the state of Mississippi.
♪ Some said Peter and some said Paul ♪ I'd never heard, until 1962, that Black people could register and vote.
I'd never even heard that that was in the Constitution.
Well, we go in and live with people, live in their homes, trying to get them to the point where they lose some of their fears.
See, we have to cut across generational fear.
HAMER: I went to a SNCC conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in November 1962.
And the first time I had a chance to just sit next to a white person.
I've never been that nervous in my life.
SNCC is the type of people, they call them far left, radicals, beatniks, and all of this kind of thing, but they still is willing to go into areas.
They work with the people that's poor.
They work with the people that never had a chance to be treated as a human being.
And if it's necessary, some have already done that, has given their lives for the cause of human justice.
We would go to places, would go in to do voter registration, and you'd talk to people, and we would tell them we was coming back the next day, and by the next day, somebody would be done got to them, and they wouldn't want to talk with us.
We would be harassed, and we'd know cars would be passing the house loaded with white men, and trucks would be passing there with guns hanging up in the back.
CHOIR: ♪ Wade in the water HAMER: Well, it was, it was rough.
Year after year, things looked like, got worse and worse.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helped to build confidence in people that, they was just about to lose all hopes, and that's the truth.
♪ DICK MORPHEW: Hello again, everyone, and welcome to Citizens' Council Forums.
It's our very real pleasure to welcome back to our microphone today former governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi.
BARNETT: Dick, it's been my pleasure to participate in your program several times, and I'd like to say that it's been my privilege to travel throughout the length and breadth of America during the last few years.
One thing that has impressed itself upon me throughout my travels, and that is how similar the people of this great nation really are.
No matter where they happen to live, they are all about the same.
MORPHEW: I know that you were asked about the state of race relations in Mississippi at the present time.
What was your answer to that question?
BARNETT: Well, they always ask that question about race relations, and I told them in substance that until all the communist-inspired agitation began, Mississippi actually enjoyed the best race relations of any other state in the nation.
I told them that our white and colored citizens knew one another as individuals, and that they cared about one another as individuals, and despite all of the efforts to create ill will and hatred, that I honestly believe that on a person-to-person basis, that the people of Mississippi still have the most cordial race relations in the nation, and I told them that we are all going to try to keep it that way, both the white and the Black.
I told them that our voting qualification laws are sound, and they are.
That they have been upheld by the federal courts time and time again, and there's no question about that.
I told them that our registration officials understand that these laws must be administered fairly, with no one placed under any undue burden, that all ought to be treated alike.
I told them that the record would show no proof whatsoever that any qualified applicant in Mississippi has ever been actually denied registration because of his color or his race or national origin, but whatever mistakes have been made, if any have been made, probably were errors of judgment by part-time registrars.
To put it in simple language, it is not that some qualified (bleep) have been denied the right to vote.
It is probably a matter of some perhaps unqualified white applicants who have been registered to vote.
♪ HAMER: I'll begin from the first beginning, August the 31st in 1962, that I traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse to try to register to become a first-class citizen.
I was met by my children when I returned from the courthouse, and my girl and my husband's cousin told me that this man that we had worked for was raising a lot of Cain.
And about that time, the man walked up, Mr. Marlow, and he said, "Is Fannie Lou back yet?"
So my husband said, "She is."
I walked out of the house at this time.
He said, "Fannie Lou," said, "You've been to the courthouse to try to register, and we are not ready for this in Mississippi."
I said, "Well, I didn't register for you.
I tried to register for myself."
(audience laughs) He said, "We are not going to have this in Mississippi, and you will have to go down and withdraw."
And he said, "I'm looking for you answer, yay or nay."
So I just looked, and he said, "I'll give you till in the morning."
And said, "If you don't go down and withdraw, "you will have to leave, and if you do go down and withdraw, it's on to how I feel, you still might have to go."
So I left that same night.
♪ Ten days later, on the tenth of September, 16 bullets was fired into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker, the people that I had gone to live with.
I don't find that there's any great deal of intimidation.
I'm sure that there is some intimidation, and I'm sure that that intimidation does exist in every state of the American union.
My name is Charles McLaurin, and I worked in voter registration in Sunflower County.
On January 25, 1963, I went to the mayor's office in Indianola, Mississippi.
My purpose, the purpose was to see if there were any laws on the books that forbidded voter registration activities in the city.
The mayor jumped from his seat and said, "You Black son of a bitch.
Don't you come in here arguing at me."
I told him that we were there to do voter registration, and that if there were any laws that forbidded it, to let me know.
And he said, he said, "No."
And I turned to walk away, and he called me back.
Said, "Go out and teach everybody in the town.
"I don't care, but if you go into any churches, I will cut off the tax exemption."
For instance, you had some 28,000 to 30,000 qualified (bleep) in the state to participate in the last campaign for Congress, which took place just a few weeks ago.
And of that 25,000 or 30,000 that could have participated, there were only about 4,500 votes that were cast.
The trouble is that the (bleep), just like the white man, was not interested.
My name is Jesse Harris, and I participate in voter registration in the Mississippi Delta.
It was during 1962 I was arrested in Jackson for contempt of court, and fined a $100 fine, and 30 days in the Hinds County Farm.
The first time I was beaten was in Hinds County on the elevator, when officers asked me my name and where I was from, and I told them I was from Jackson.
And so he beat me and he hit me side of the head and the back, I think.
The second time, I was beaten on the Hinds County Farm because he, he asked me where I was from, also, and I told him Jackson.
And he said, "Oh, you one of those Freedom Riders."
And I told him I didn't know what it was, so he beat me.
We are not going to tolerate any group from the outside of Mississippi or from the inside of Mississippi to take the law into their own hands.
We are going to see to it that law and order is maintained, and maintained Mississippi-style.
If I hate you because you hate me, I'm no better than you are.
And all we want to do is to make these people understand that we are human beings and we can work together in this country.
And to have a democracy, that's what we're going to have to do.
And I think about the turmoil and the things that's going on across the country, and it carries me a long way back.
It carried me back to the early '60s, when a young man living in a place called Liberty, Mississippi.
His name was Herbert Lee.
He had nine children.
He was shot down by a state representative.
It carries me back to '61.
To the time when Reverend Lee, at Belzoni, was on his way home and was shot going in his driveway.
It brings me up unto other people that have been killed.
And it brings me then to 1963, when I was arrested in Winona, Mississippi.
♪ I had been to a voter registration workshop, you know, to, they were just training and teaching us how to register, to pass the literacy test, and it was giving us enough training that we could tell other people, you know, how to pass the literacy test.
We finished the workshop, and then we got the Continental Trailway bus to come back to Mississippi.
And we got to Winona, Mississippi, I would say about 10:30 that Sunday morning, and four people got off of the bus, you know, to use the restaurant, to get food, and two people got off to use the washroom.
Well, I was still on the bus.
When I looked through the glass, I saw the people rush out, and I stepped off to see what had happened, and Miss Ponder told me that it was a state highway patrolman and the chief of police on the inside, and began to tap them on the shoulders with billy clubs and ordered them to get out.
And I said, "Well, this is Mississippi."
I saw them when they began to put the five people what was, you know, off the bus, began to put them in the highway patrolman's car.
And she said, "Get back on the bus, Miss Hamer."
And then I heard somebody scream from the car that she was in, and said, "Get that one there."
And then a white man stepped out of a car and told me I was under arrest, and when he opened the door, and I went to get in the car, he kicked me, and they carried me on down to the county jail.
Then when I walked in with the two white men that had carried me down, and they cursed me all the way down.
They would ask me questions, and when I would try to answer, they would tell me to hush.
And I was put in a cell with Miss Euvester Simpson, and after I was put in the cell, I could just hear some horrible screams, and, and I would hear somebody when they'd say, "Can't you say, 'Yes, sir,' nigger?
Can't you say, 'Yes, sir?'"
And they would call her names that I wouldn't want to go on tape.
And she said, "Yes, I can say, 'Yes, sir.'"
"So say it."
And she said, "I don't know you well enough."
And I would hear when she would hit the floor again, and finally, she began to pray.
And she asked God to have mercy on these people, because they didn't know what they was doing.
And after a while, they passed my cell door with this young woman, Miss Annell Ponder, and one of her eyes looked like blood.
And her hair was standing up on her head, and her clothes had been torn.
And then three white men came to my cell, and one of them was a state highway patrolman, and he asked me where I was from, and I told him I was from Ruleville.
And I guess he called Ruleville, and they did, didn't like me in Ruleville because I worked with voter registration there.
And when he came back, he said, "You damn right."
They say, "You're from Ruleville, all right, and we going to make you wish you was dead."
And they led me out of that cell into another cell, and he gave a Negro prisoner a blackjack, and he ordered me to lay down on a bunk bed.
And a Negro prisoner said, "Do you want me to beat her with this, sir?"
And he said, "You damn right, because if you don't, you know what I'll do for you."
And I laid down on the bunk like he ordered me to do, and the first Negro beat me.
He beat me until he was exhausted, and after he beat, the state highway patrolman ordered the second Negro to take the blackjack.
And in the time he was beating, I began to work my feet because that was a horrible experience, and the state highway patrolman ordered the first Negro that had beat to sit on my feet while the second one beat me, and I just began to scream where I couldn't control it.
And then the white man got up and began to beat me in my head.
I have a blood clot now in the artery to the left eye and a permanent kidney injury on the right side from that beating.
♪ (children talking in background) At that time, you know, I was out on the road most of the time.
They want to me to come from place to place to speak.
Voter registration and trying to get more people involved, and that's what we worked on most of that whole summer.
And all that SNCC is trying to do and the young people that came into Mississippi from the 1964 project, all they are trying to do is to say, "These are human beings and they're supposed to be treated like anybody else."
- Most likely a cop won't try to chunk you in here... HAMER: The white people in the movement, especially young people, is just as dedicated, is just as pure in wanting a change for all human beings.
- So happy to have you... HAMER: And I just, I just have faith not only in the young Negroes, but in the young whites that will be working in the South, in fact, all over the country, to bring a change in the United States.
FORMAN: And I'm just wondering if people in this room understand one, that people should be expected to get beaten, they should expect to spend in jail, and that they should expect possibly somebody to get killed.
HAMER: I also know it was people like Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney that gave their lives to the state of Mississippi, that all of us would have a better chance.
And when they died there, they didn't just die for me, but they died for you, because your freedom is shackled and chained to mine, and until I am free, you are not free, either.
SINGERS: ♪ I'm gonna let it shine ♪ VICTORIA GRAY: We have organized into the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, encouraging every Negro and white who wants a stake in his political future to prove it by getting his name on a Freedom registration book.
HAMER: The reason we have a Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party, we wasn't allowed to participate with the regular Democratic Party in Mississippi.
When we went to visit the precinct meeting in Ruleville, it was eight of us, eight Negroes, and we went up to this polling place where they would hold precinct meetings, and they had this place closed.
It was locked up, so we stood at the nearest place, which was right down by the steps on the lawn, and we held our own precinct meeting.
We elected our chairman, our secretary, our delegates, and our alternates.
And we passed a law to resolution, and we moved from the precinct level up to the state.
Then on the 24th of April, 24th or 26th of April, 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party was organized at the Masonic Temple in Jackson, Mississippi.
ELLA BAKER: The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is only beginning, and it is beginning on the basis that it believes that a political party should be open to all of the people who wish to subscribe to its principles.
That means it's open to, it's open to even the son of the planter on whose plantation you worked, if that son has reached the point that he's willing to subscribe to your principles.
(applauding) HAMER: And there's some people in this room here that was in Atlantic City with us when the delegation went from Mississippi to challenge the seating of the regular delegation at that convention in Atlantic City.
♪ REPORTER: On Monday, the 1964 Democratic National Convention will open here in Atlantic City to nominate President Lyndon B. Johnson.
HAMER: We believe that we will be seated in this convention because it is right.
When you tell the truth, you don't have anything to hide.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: The seating of the delegation from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party has political and moral significance far beyond the borders of Mississippi or the halls of this convention.
JOSEPH L. RAUH, JR.: It is the very terror that these people are living through that is the reason that Negroes aren't voting, that they're kept out of the Democratic Party by the terror of the regular party.
And what I want the credentials committee to hear is the terror which the regular party uses on the people of Mississippi, which is what Reverend King was explaining, which is what Aaron Henry was explaining, and which is what the next witness will explain, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.
(audience applauding) Mr. Chairman and to 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 Stennis.
All of this is on account of, 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 of the hook because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings in America?
(audience applauds) They offered us two seats at large.
We refused to accept a compromise.
I told them in Atlantic City, if something's supposed to have been mine 100 years, don't offer me two of it today.
No, don't give me a bite of what I'm supposed to have the whole thing 100 years.
If you don't give me all of it, just keep the two.
Then three of us decided to run for Congress: Miss Annie Devine, Victoria Gray, and myself.
When we tried to get on the ballot, they refused to put our names on the ballot.
But our names was put on a Freedom ballot, because we made our own ballot.
And we didn't just write the Black people's name on the ballot, we included the white people on the ballot.
And I received 33,009 votes against my opponent's 49 votes.
And I didn't say 49,000.
So this made us the fourth of January, 1965, come to Washington.
We had made the challenge at the convention for the delegation.
Then 1965, we were making the challenge for the five representative seats.
Here they come, followers of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
They've been here at the House of Representatives all day long, from this morning.
They are all now under arrest, charged with unlawful occupancy of a public building.
- ♪ Keep your eyes on the prize... ♪ HAMER: The police officials there at the House, you would have thought we was carrying secret information from the United States to Russia the way they, you know, acted as though we was carrying a bomb or something.
The congressman from my district didn't say anything, but the others said enough, they couldn't even prove to their selves they was telling the truth.
You know, they said they represented the people of Mississippi, and 42% of the people, we know, as well as they know, can't register and vote, and that's why I have to tell the congressmen there and the chairmen and the committees that it's now time for America to wake up.
♪ Let my people go - ♪ All them sons began to shout ♪ DAVID BRINKLEY: Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer hails from Ruleville, Mississippi, in Sunflower County, and she has a gift for earthy and vivid phrases, and for stating her views without formality, cant, or hypocrisy.
Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.
Will you welcome, please, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.
♪ MAN: Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, the spark plug of the Mississippi Freedom Party and a candidate for political office in her hometown.
HAMER: But all we was asking for was new and free elections to give all the people a chance to vote in Mississippi, that they could choose the people that was going to represent them and determine their destiny.
♪ Look like the children that Moses led ♪ ♪ Let my people go HAMER: When they had the hearing before the subcommittee on election, and they said, "Well, we won't say you're not right, "but if we let you get away with this, they'll be doing it all over the South."
I said, "Well if all over the South need it, throw them out."
♪ Let my people go HAMER: Congressman Adam Clayton Powell said, "If you go on the floor today, you'll be the first "Negro women in the history of the United States that have ever gone on the floor of Congress."
And I said, "You can get your pen and start writing, because we're going to make history today."
(people chuckling) "Because we want to see... "I want to be on the floor of Congress when I watch another part of democracy go down the drain."
SINGERS: ♪ Over the hills and everywhere ♪ HAMER: And regardless of all of the things that we went through in 1963 or 1964, we didn't have many people registered in the Mississippi, but today we have 60% of the Black population registered in Mississippi, we have 42 elected officials in the state of Mississippi, and one day, you will be proud when you can say, "Senator Fannie Lou Hamer," because I'm on my way, baby.
(audience cheers and applauds) Our top priority is doing what we have to do here in our own country to try to heal some of the wounds that's so very deep, and we're going to fight for peace.
We're going to to demand peace until every one of us have peace in this United States.
(audience applauding) ♪ I'm gonna land on the shore ♪ I'm gonna land on the shore ♪ ♪ I'm gonna land on the shore ♪ Where I'll rest forevermore ♪ The preacher in the pulpit ♪ With a Bible in his hand ♪ He's preachin' to these sinners ♪ ♪ But they just won't understand ♪ ♪ I'm gonna land ♪ On the shore ♪ I'm gonna land...
The whole hope and the future of this country, if it's not too late already, is with the people which some people call the militant, the radical, or whatever you call them.
Black and white throughout the country, at this, these college campus, they are very true, they are very honest, and all they want is the thing that they've been reading about is to become a reality.
And for this country to have democracy in action, it's going to come through these young people.
I've been very concerned with young Black people in Mississippi, and it's no need in getting an education, running to some other place.
Fight, make it right here.
I'll take a chance in Mississippi quicker than I would Chicago.
'Cause we at least know where we are here.
But they got some of the same hypocrites up there that's just like these white racists down here.
- (laugh) HAMER: And that's the reason we have to do our thing right in Mississippi.
And you see, a lot of these young people hadn't been exposed to what it's really like, you know.
Some of them had been in school, just came out of school, and, you know, they said, "Well, we believe that this will work or that will work," only to be faced with all of these things sometimes, had somehow, had looked like, backfired in their face.
We have been Black powerless people for 400 years.
I've seen people boxed in, Black children in Harlem of New York.
I've seen people boxed in, Black people in Chicago, Illinois, in the slums, with a baby sick, rats eating on the babies.
So what we mean by Black power is, we mean to have not only Black political power, but Black economic power to have a voice in the educational system that our kids will know-- not only the Black kids, but the white kids should know the kind of contributions that have been made by Black people throughout this country.
We want to determine some of our destiny, and this what Black power means.
We want to have something to say about our destiny.
We want Black power!
(crowd responding, agreeing) We want Black power!
HAMER: See, and I'm really fed up in hearing the word "compromise."
I've got to get just a little taste of what I was supposed to have every bit of it 100 years ago.
White people are trying to re, resection you where you won't have as much power, you know?
Well, one night I went to bed and didn't turn over, and I woke up in another district where we still the majority.
(people laugh) - So, you know, we just have... WOMAN: Ms. Hamer... - We have to go to court whenever it's necessary.
I didn't come to Washington to hear no bills being legislated that they would feed me in 1972.
What in the world is going on between 1972?
I'm thinking about what you going to do for my people in December.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
For so many years, Negroes have suffered in the state of Mississippi.
And we are tired of people saying that we are satisfied, because we are everything but satisfied.
A person that was born in the middle class that had never had to suffer, you know, he can afford to take things maybe easier than I can, and all I've ever done was suffered.
A person that's born in the middle class and have always had things somewhat decent, he can't make a decision for me, because he actually don't know how I feel.
I never will forget, Mr. Wilkins came to me one day from the NAACP, that I find out at that national convention was the National Association of the Advancement of Certain People, but it didn't include us in Mississippi.
And he came to me and told me, said, "You people are ignorant.
"You don't know anything about politics.
"You put your point over.
Why don't you pack up and go home?"
And we got to let people know how we feel.
We are not satisfied because we know that...
In the fourth chapter of Saint Luke, in the 18th verse, said, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, "because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor."
It was His purpose here, was preaching and speaking to the poor.
So mostly what the, the middle-class bourgeois-- white and Black, because I've seen white tongues, Negro tongues-- they concerned about the person that's already got something.
They're not trying to bring no change to these people don't have anything, you know.
If they go into a area, they going into the best part of the neighborhood, they going to get with the best type of people, and you see, that's the hypocrisy of this whole country.
(insects chirping) Mississippi is still a very rough place.
You know, um, people is not just walking up like they used to do in the past, walking out, you know, shooting a man down, or getting maybe 200 or 300 people carrying you out and lynching you, but it's, it's in a more subtle way.
They can let you starve to death, not give you jobs.
These are some of the things that's happening right now in Mississippi.
People in Mississippi are still hungry.
People in Mississippi are still living in run-down, dilapidated shacks.
You see, you will have to have experienced it to know what it's about, because my daughter that's 17 stayed in the hospital one time six weeks, suffering from malnutrition.
And it's not because we are lazy.
It's not because we hadn't worked hard.
But it's because we've never been paid for our work.
We're fighting for the rights of all human beings, and we going about the thing in a very good way.
Because we know if you give us food, we can eat a few days.
But if you give us the tools, we'll produce for ourselves.
I just don't want people to have to give me and my people a welfare check.
I want some land.
We've been able to help a lot of people.
We grow our own vegetables, you know, like butterbean, peas, okra, potatoes, peanuts, started this pig bank program.
The plan of the thing is that it can grow to produce enough that people just won't know what hunger is.
Freedom Farms Cooperation is one of the best things that ever happened in Sunflower County.
For the first time in our lives, we will have a chance to control some of our destiny.
I don't be ashamed when somebody come here and I can go in the kitchen and fry some ham and open some soup, and have some vegetables.
Once you have been hungry and had to stay hungry, when you see them that's suffering, you want to change it for them, too.
She had the inability to say no to people who were in need.
And what had happened was typical of Fannie Lou.
Sometime, when there were money to make the payments on the farm, if someone came who needed money to make a payment on a house or to buy food, or for utilities or for whatever, Fannie Lou would let them have it.
HAMER: ♪ I have heard of the city called Heaven ♪ And so help me God, a cry of hunger is a cry of hunger, whether it's coming from Blacks, white, brown, or red.
♪ Today, I'm not ashamed of being Black.
I'm not ashamed of my history.
That was 1962.
Nobody knew that I exist, nobody.
And I hadn't heard of them, either.
And then one day, the 31st of August, I walked out on, off the plantation, and from that time up until now, I met a lot of people.
I met a lot of great people, both Blacks and whites, people that we have walked together, talked together, we've cried together.
It's been very interesting to meet them.
- ♪ Go tell it on the mountain HAMER: There's some good people in this country.
That's what give me strength to keep going.
That's like, somewhere in Mississippi, whether he's afraid to speak out or not, somebody here is good-- some of these white people.
And one day, they'll speak out.
And until that time, I have to fight, until he get the nerve to say, "We going to fight together."
♪ While I'm on this ♪ Tedious journey ♪ I want Jesus ♪ To walk with me MAN: Amen.
(insects buzzing) HAMER: ♪ Oh, run, run, mourner, run ♪ Bright angels above ♪ Oh, run, run, mourner, run ♪ Bright angels above ♪ If I just had your wings ♪ Bright angels above ♪ If I just had your wings ♪ Bright angels above ♪ I'd fly away to the kingdom ♪ ♪ Bright angels above ♪ Yeah, I'd fly away to the kingdom ♪ ♪ Bright angels above ♪ Angel, lend me your wings ♪ Bright angels above ♪ Angel, lend me your wings ♪ Bright angels above ♪ Escape for your life ♪ Bright angels above ♪ Escape for your life ♪ Bright angels above ♪ If I just had your wings ♪ Bright angels above ♪ If I just had your wings ♪ Bright angels above ♪ I'd fly away to the kingdom ♪ Bright angels above ♪ I'd fly away to the kingdom She knew life.
She had lived it.
She had experienced things that many of us could never think of facing, and yet she could smile, she could shout, she could make other people happy, and she, if necessary, she could cuss them out.
She wasn't afraid.
Ms. Hamer talked and told it like it was, and everybody found out how people was being treated here in this Delta land.
VERNON JORDAN: Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote that, "As life is action and passion, "it is required of men and women to share "the action and passion of their times at the risk of being judged not to have lived."
By Holmes's standard, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer truly, truly lived, and leaves to us today an irrevocable legacy of service, of commitment, of sacrifice, and of love.
HAMER: It's hard for me to stand up and sing the national anthem.
I stand up and I work my mouth, but I don't always come through with the verses.
"Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hail."
Because actually, the land of the free and the home of the brave had meant the land of the tree and the home of the grave for so many of us.
See, Mississippi is not actually Mississippi's problem.
Mississippi is America's problem, because if America wanted to do something about what has been going on in Mississippi, it could've stopped by now.
You see, the flag is, is drenched with our blood, because, you see, so many of our ancestors was killed because we have never accepted slavery.
We had to live on it, but we never wanted it, so we know that this flag is drenched with our blood.
So what the young people are saying now-- give us a chance to be young men, respected as a man, as we know this country was built on the Black backs of Black people across this country, and if we don't have it, you ain't going to have it, either, because we going to tear it up.
That's what they saying, and people ought to understand that.
I don't see why they don't understand that.
They know what they've done to us.
All across this country, they know what they've done to us.
♪ Wade in the water (singers join in): ♪ Wade in the water, children ♪ HAMER: We are not dealing with men today.
The sixth chapter of the Ephesians and 11 and 12th verse said, "Put on the whole armor of God "that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
The 12th verse says, "But we wrestle not "against flesh and blood, but against power, "against principalities, "against the rulers of darkness of this world, spiritual weakness in high places."
And people, whether you believe it or not, you better remember this today, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
A nation that's divided against itself cannot stand.
And it's two past midnight, and we're on our way out.
SINGERS: ♪ Wade in the water ♪ Wade in the water, children ♪ Wade in the water (song fades) HAMER: ♪ This little light of mine (others joining in): ♪ I'm gonna let it shine ♪ Oh, this little light of mine ♪ ♪ I'm gonna let it, let it shine ♪ ♪ This little light of mine ♪ I'm gonna let it shine ♪ Let it shine, let it shine, let it... ♪ HAMER: ♪ Oh, everywhere I go, Lord ♪ I'm gonna let it shine SINGERS: ♪ Oh, everywhere I go, Lord ♪ I'm gonna let it, let it shine ♪ ♪ Everywhere I go, Lord ♪ I'm gonna let it shine ♪ Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine ♪ ♪ Oh, I've got the light of freedom ♪ ♪ I'm gonna let it shine