Oct. 6, 1917

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. Credit: AP

Fannie Lou Hamer was born on a Mississippi Delta plantation with her sharecropping family, the youngest of 20 children. She became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and after registering to vote, she was kicked off the plantation. 

A fearless civil rights leader, her singing became a source of inspiration and strength among civil rights workers. 

In 1964, she burst onto the national scene when she challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. She spoke about Black Americans being harassed, beaten, shot at and arrested for trying to vote. On television, she asked, “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 (are) threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings — in America?” 

She continued to remain active in the civil rights movement until her death in 1977. Her hometown of Ruleville built a statue to honor her.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.