Aug. 22, 1964
Fannie Lou Hamer drew national attention when she testified before the Democratic National Convention’s credentials committee, challenging Mississippi’s all-white delegation. She detailed violence against Black Americans in Mississippi, including her own beating in the Winona jail.
“All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens,” she said. “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?”
Before she could finish, President Lyndon Johnson’s office got the networks to cut away from her testimony for an impromptu press conference at the White House. But later that night, Hamer’s testimony ran on all the networks.
Asked why she kept pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans, she replied, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party failed to unseat the all-white delegation, but four years later, Hamer returned in triumph, receiving a standing ovation as the first Black delegate from Mississippi since Reconstruction.