After suffering from a brutal police beating in a bogus arrest for registering to vote, Fannie Lou wanted Mississippi's all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention, to represent all Mississippians. She formed the Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party and drew national attention to the struggles of African Americans. Hamer challenged the party based on then Minneapolis Mayor, Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 championing of a more inclusive party that adopted a platform calling for equal opportunity in the military, workplace, and politics. As a result, most southern Democrats abandoned the Democratic Party, forming their own conservative “Dixiecrats” party.
As a result of Hamer’s radio broadcast, the Credentials Committee received thousands of letters in support and phone calls to seat the Freedom Democrats. President Johnson in an effort to resolve the problem during a heated election year, dispatched Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
Humphrey, often credited with pushing through the Voting Rights Act of 1965, asked for a compromise to which Hamer responded “Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for you.”
The MFDP was finally seated at the 1968 convention, after the Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded equality of representation from their states' delegations. However, it wouldn’t be until 1972 before Fannie Lou Hamer would be elected as a national party delegate, where she received a thunderous standing ovation when she became the first African American to take her rightful seat as an official delegate at a national-party convention since the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Due to complications from hypertension and breast cancer, Fannie Lou Hamer passed away in 1977. Her famous quote “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” is engraved in her tombstone.
During this presidential election cycle let’s remember the brave Fannie Lou Hamer’s of the world that demanded change and refused to remain “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Yvette Williams is a community advocate and Chair/Founder of the Clark County Black Caucus, a non-partisan community organization driven 100% by volunteer members registered to vote. Follow her Blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com and on twitter @YvetteBWilliams or contact her at ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com for more information.