Fannie Lou Hamer: Land Justice for Black Farmers
Fannie Lou Hamer is a name you may recognize: this powerful civil rights icon and women’s rights leader from the 1960s-70s was central in fighting for black women’s rights in a revolutionary era.
Her voice was one of the most passionate, and impactful forces at the time- particularly for voting rights and economic opportunities for black communities. Here’s what most people don’t know about her work.
She was working behind the scenes to help black farmers. Why? For many reasons - empowering black communities, increasing access to food, and fighting for farming equality. But her personal mission began on a hot summer evening, when she was just 13 years old.
A white man, a total stranger, snuck onto her family’s farm in Mississippi and poured gallons of poison all over her parents’ crops. The destruction was so significant that their entire farming operation was taken out, and they were left with almost nothing. Fannie Lou Hamer couldn’t believe that a white man could make a move so simple - but her whole family’s livelihood would be ruined from the act.
From that point on, she was determined to “get back up again,” as she says in her autobiography, and to help other black farmers do the same.
In the 60’s, black farmers were routinely denied the necessary loans they’d need to run a farm - loans that white farmers had no problems getting. As a result, black farms often failed or had to move to other regions.
One hundred years ago, 15% of farmers in America were black. That number is now closer to 2% - because of acts like racist loan discrimination that hardworking black farmers faced. Black farmers often had their farms sabotaged, whether it was financial or physical destruction, like Fannie Lou Hamer’s family experienced.
To combat this open and unabashed oppression of black farmers, Fannie Lou Hamer did something revolutionary: She established the Freedom Farm Cooperative, which made land accessible to black farmers so they could have a food source and employ marginalized communities in the South. The Freedom Farm Cooperative included the Pig Project, which gave pork to families who couldn’t afford other protein sources.
The Freedom Farm Cooperative eventually expanded to create community gardens, community kitchens, a job training center, and other income-providing resources for marginalized communities.
Fannie Lou Hamer was an activist that was truly for the people: She fought for women, for black communities, for jobs, for sources of income, and for food. She faced challenges in her mission - as a black woman, she encountered threats of violence, death threats, and more - but she persevered, nonetheless, to “get back up again.”