In this Sept. 17, 1965 file photo, Fannie Lou Hamer, of Ruleville, Miss., speaks to Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party sympathizers outside the Capitol in Washington after the House of Representatives rejected a challenger to the 1964 election of five Mississippi representatives. Historically, black women have been no strangers to the quest for social change. But historians say they have often been overshadowed, first by white women during the suffragette movement and then by the black men who were lionized during the civil rights movement Credit: AP Photo, William J. Smith

The life and work of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer is being commemorated with a historical marker to be unveiled Saturday in Kilmichael, her husband’s hometown.

The ceremony will be at 11 a.m. at 311 N. Depot Ave. in the heart of downtown Kilmichael in Montgomery County. Leslie Burl McLemore, who worked alongside Hamer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, is the guest speaker. 

Fannie Lou Hamer often said she was born in Montgomery County, but testified in federal court in 1963 that she was born in Tomnolen in Webster County, which borders Montgomery County.

Chris and Wiley Snell came up with the idea and funding for the historical marker for Fannie Lou Hamer in Kilmichael, Miss. Credit: Courtesy of Chris Snell

Montgomery County native Chris Snell and her husband, Wiley, a retired high school administrator from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, raised the funding and worked with Jim Woodrick and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for two years in their effort to preserve the Hamers’ legacy with the marker. 

“This marker is a reminder that we are in this space because Fannie Lou Hamer fought and gave her life so that future generations can continue their thrust for excellence by lifting up their voices as she did,” Chris Snell said in a news release announcing the unveiling.

Additional funding for the event was provided by the Kappas of Rust College and the Zetas as part of their outreach activities. 

Hamer’s last surviving child, Jacqueline Hamer Flakes had been asked to be the guest speaker, but declined due to failing health. She died on March 27. 

Leslie B. McLemore, veteran of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement at his home in Walls, Miss. Credit: Ashley F. G. Norwood, Mississippi Today

“We don’t concentrate enough on how brilliant Fannie Lou Hamer was and her ability to adapt to her new environment — and her new environment was in the civil rights movement,” McLemore said in the news release. 

She went from from being a timekeeper on the Marlow Plantation in Sunflower County to becoming SNCC’s chief fundraiser, noted McLemore, professor emeritus of political science at Jackson State University, was the founding director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy at JSU in 1997. 

This will be the second marker in Montgomery County that acknowledges Hamer’s efforts for racial equity. The first was unveiled on June 9, 2022, in Winona at the site of the former jail where Hamer and several other activists were beaten in June 1963. A third marker, as part of the Mississippi Civil Rights Trail, will be unveiled on June 9, 2023, at the site of Staley’s Café/Trailways Depot where Hamer and the others were arrested prior to the jailhouse beating. 

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