Fannie Lou Hamer

It was 56 years ago this week that civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer traveled from her home state of Mississippi to Atlantic City, where she and other members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenged the all-white delegation representing the state at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

In her testimony, she talked about the beatings she had endured during her fight for the right to vote.

All of this is on account 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 the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”
Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

Although her efforts failed to unseat the delegation, her speech galvanized the nation, and in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed. Stockton University pays tribute to her historic presence in Atlantic City with the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Human and Civil Rights Symposium in October, and in 2018 named the Event Room in the new Atlantic City Campus in her honor. 

This Voice was originally published in 2020. Stacey Clapp, director of Strategic Communications and member of the Campus Committee of Diversity and Inclusion Excellence, wrote this for the 56th anniversary of the speech.