Yesterday marked 59 years since Fannie Lou Hamer and six other women were arrested after sitting at a “whites only” restaurant in Winona, Mississippi. Commemorating their historic fight for justice, June 9 will be known as Fannie Lou Hamer Day in Winona, Mississippi.
According to WCBI, the Winona Board of Alderman voted to commemorate her.
Jackie Hamer-Flakes, Hamer’s last surviving daughter, said, “They were tortured in those jail cells. It’s not easy knowing that my mother was brutally beaten in that jail. It’s not easy knowing that they really disgraced her, not allowing her to keep her dress down when she tried to smooth it back down when they were beating her on her legs.”
Along with June 9 being Fannie Lou Hamer Day, the state unveiled a Mississippi State Historical Marker to honor where Hamer and the six others were beaten. This is the first time the state has officially acknowledged the brutal attack.
Police severely assaulted the women while they were in jail. Police ordered inmates to restrain and beat Hamer with a blackjack. The officers also groped her and exposed her body to male inmates during their abuse of her. Hamer suffered kidney damage, a blood clot in her eye and other life-long injuries. Even after being tortured, Hamer never ended her voting rights advocacy work. Hamer continued to register Black voters in Mississippi and worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which focused on racial segregation and injustice in the South. She also co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Hamer famously addressed the 1964 Democratic National Convention, recounting for the nation her experience of that torturous attack by police and demanding equal access to the ballot box for African-Americans.
Civil rights historian and Florida State University professor Dr. Davis Houck told WCBI, “I think the community’s outlook (at the time) on this was number one, ‘We don’t like civil rights activists and activism going on in our community,’ and number two, ‘We’re not going to acknowledge what happened here.'”
Fannie Lou Hamer Day and the Mississippi State Historical Marker were made possible due to the advocacy of Houck, local organizer Vickie Roberts-Ratliff, the Land Literacy and Legacy, which is a nonprofit organization based in Oxford, Mississippi, and other activists.
Fannie Lou Hamer died in 1977 at 59 years old.