Statue of Fannie Lou Hamer unveiled in Mississippi
[Fannie Lou Hamer] had the audacity to stand down not only the Mississippi Democratic Party but actually the National Democratic Party. She had the audacity to put her finger in Herbert Humphrey’s face and say we will not accept a compromise. We want all of what is due to us. And she had the temerity to stand up to some of her own [race] who said let’s take the little two seats when we were due 64. You know change comes slowly, but not with Fannie Lou Hamer. She wanted all for us, the best for us.”
Malveaux was one of the speakers at the ceremony in Ruleville where a bronze statue, sculpted by Brian Hanlon, was unveiled. The pose is one for which Hamer is famous, stirring the crowd to action by singing into a megaphone during a political rally.
The $85,000 needed for the statue was raised by private donations and the statue rests on a 4-foot marble foundation. The statue bears three photographs of Hamer throughout her struggle, and three of her quotes, including the one which inspired the statue: “I’m never sure when I leave home whether I’ll make it back or not…but if I fall, I’ll fall five feet and four inches forward for freedom and I’m not backing off it!”
Those words speak to the kind of person Hamer was before and after she became involved in civil rights.
“The unveiling and dedication of the Fannie Lou Hamer statue represents the cumulative efforts of folks all across the nation,” said Dr. Maegan P. Brooks, a member of the statue committee. “The statue itself is a symbol of people banding together in memory of Mrs. Hamer and in support of what she stood for: namely, the idea that all people deserve to be full citizens of our nation and that all people should strive to participate in the democratic decision-making process, which affects all of our daily lives. I think Mrs. Hamer would have been truly touched to see so many school children at the ceremony–as she said, ‘We ain’t free yet, the kids need to know their mission.'”
“We still hear her, over and over again, and all of her words have inspired us and we still repeat the mantra, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ Fannie Lou Hamer epitomizes strength, passion and purpose,” Evers-Everette said.
Hamer’s penchant for justice was echoed throughout the unveiling ceremony as speaker after speaker lauded her for her work.
Dr. Malveaux reminded the more than 500 in attendance that Fannie Lou Hamer is one of only three African American women to have a free standing statue in their name, Sojourner Truth and Mary McLeod-Bethune being the other two.
Hamer’s statue was placed in the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden in Ruleville where a Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker honoring Hamer was placed in August 2011.
Hamer and her husband, Perry “Pap” Hamer are buried in the park.
“When I walked into the garden and saw the graves,” Malveaux said. “I almost came to tears. This is a peaceful place. This is a restful place. This is a reflective place. It’s a wonderful place to sit in and soak in the power of Fannie Lou Hamer.”
Others on the program included Hamer’s oldest daughter, Vergie Hamer Faulkner, who sang and spoke of the unity of her adoptive parents.
“One thing I can say about Pap,” she said. “He did what he wanted to do. He said what he wanted to say. But he stood by Fannie Lou all the way.”
Evers-Everette, who was just 8 years old when her father was killed on June 12, 1963, has since moved back to Mississippi and is now the executive director of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute at Alcorn University.
She said this week that she is working with other organizations in promoting the 50th anniversary of her father’s assassination in 2013, as well as keeping the memory of others activists alive for future generations.
“We’re promoting, not so much his death, but my dad’s life and his life lessons and that of other foot soldiers of the civil rights movement that need to be honored. People need to know all the stories and the contributions of the known and the lesser known freedom fighters. And seeing the support of those who came for this unveiling, brings for me, such an intense feeling of gratitude and an overwhelming respect for those fallen heroes, my dad being one, Fannie Lou being another, Dr. King being another and it’s really about time. It’s needed.
And especially so for our youth, because they will go farther than we will. So, they need to bring all of that wisdom forward in order for us to continue to strive down the right path.”