by Colin Fields. The Plough
Fannie Lou Hamer was the twentieth child born to a sharecropping family on a Mississippi plantation. She grew up picking cotton – by the time she was thirteen, she picked two to three hundred pounds of cotton every day – and endured the degradation and violence of Jim Crow society.
By the time she was in her thirties, Fannie Lou Hamer had had enough. She became involved in the growing Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King, volunteering for the voter registration campaign, a dangerous project that cost many activists their lives. Riding in 1962 in a rented bus with people who wanted to register, she led her companions in songs like “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Singing not only brought courage, but was a reminder that the cause of justice is the cause of the God of righteousness – like King, Hamer fought injustice based on a deep grounding in the Bible and in Christian faith.
Two years later, thousands of volunteers came to Mississippi for “Freedom Summer” to continue voter registration efforts. Hamer was at the center of the action, organizing, exhorting, and singing. In a talk she gave at a Baptist school in Indianola, Mississippi in September 1964, she pointed out that God needs people to do his work…