Letter from Fannie Lou Hamer

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Letter from Fannie Lou Hamer, asking people to support the Voter Education Project.

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Subject

Hamer, Fannie Lou; Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council)

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Fannie Lou Hamer
Sunflower County
Ruleville, Mississippi
May 11, 1976

Dear Friends:

Since I live in a rural county which has benefitted from the work of the Voter Education Project, I want to take this time to ask for your continued support of their efforts.

If you had visited Mississippi in the late 1950s and early 1960s, you would have found the conditions for black people here almost unbelievable. It was really sad. My grandmother was a slave and the conditions we lived in were only a couple of steps away from slavery. In the 17 Mississippi Delta counties where blacks outnumber whites, sometimes by as much as five to one, we didn't have any kind of political representation. We had all kinds of brutality and conditions you wouldn't expect to exist anywhere - but they did exist right here in Mississippi.

We haven't done yet all of what we have to do in Sunflower County, but we are moving toward that goal and the Voter Education Project has been a tremendous help. Not only in Mississippi, but in all the southern states, the contributions that we have received from the Voter Education Project is really responsible for us having as many people as we have today on the registration books.

In 1964, only about 23,000 blacks were registered out of Mississippi voting age population of over 450,000 black people. Today, almost 300,000 black voters are registered and we have made some changes in Mississippi. We now have 226 black elected officials - one of the largest numbers of any state in the country.

Voter registration has been so important, because if you didn't have the people registered, we wouldn't have black people like Bennie Thompson, he's just one of my favorites, as the mayor of Bolton, Mississippi. The VEP has played a tremendous role in getting folk registered and then people can get out and vote. Even though VEP pushes registration, they are still nonpartisan, so people can elect whoever they want.

Some white folks a few years ago would drive past your house in a pickup truck with guns hanging up in the back and give you hate stares. These same people now call me Mrs. Hamer, because they respect people that respect themselves. If we didn't have the people registered today that we do have, I don't think we would have that kind of changes here, but we've still got a long way to go.

I am waiting to see the time that we will have more than one or two superintendents of education in these predominantly-black Delta counties. Not only that, but I want to see black people as mayors and on the city councils and the board of aldermen so they will be able to help determine what happens in these small towns. You take a town where there's no black officials and all kinds of little bills and all kinds of ordinances can be passed without us having anything to say about them. It's time now for people to do their own thinking - we have to think and act for ourselves. You see, these are the things that we are working towards.

I know you have given your support to the Voter Education Project before, so I'm asking that you give again, as much as you can, so they can continue their work and we can see more changes in places like Sunflower County. For your generosity, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Yours in Freedom,

Fannie Lou Hamer

Citation

Hamer, Fannie Lou, “Letter from Fannie Lou Hamer,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed January 27, 2023, https://msstate-exhibits.libraryhost.com/items/show/1969.

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