Fannie Lou Hamer’s 1964 DNC Convention Speech

By Mike Espy

As I watch the 2020 Democratic National Convention this week, memories flood back to me of my time speaking at the 1988 convention in Atlanta, Georgia, back when I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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That year, I introduced keynote speaker Ann Richards, a trailblazing daughter of the South. At the time, Ann was Texas’s State Treasurer and ultimately went on to become Governor. Many Democrats still fondly remember her fiery speech.

Throughout my introductory remarks in 1988 I reminded the crowd of another trailblazing daughter of the South who spoke at the Democratic National Convention 24 years before me: Fannie Lou Hamer.

Now, you know Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. Mrs. Hamer is one of Mississippi’s fiercest, most legendary heroes. She was a sharecropper, an activist for civil rights, women’s rights, and voting rights, and a co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Many Mississippians believe Fannie Lou’s statue should be in the U.S. Capitol right now.

Listen to part of Fannie Lou’s historic speech.

In August 1964, at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Fannie Lou delivered a stern testimony about the pains and struggles of poor Blacks and whites in this country. Just one year prior, she was beaten and jailed for helping to register Black voters in Mississippi. Mrs. Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party when the state refused to let Black Americans attend the convention.

In her now-famous address at the convention, Fannie Lou declared, with tears streaming down her face, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

In 1988, I answered: “Change is here, Fannie Lou. Because it is a new Mississippi. It is a new South.”

Today, in 2020, my answer is the same. So much has changed, and yet we have the opportunity to keep moving Mississippi, the South, and our country as a whole forward. Times are tough right now, with Mississippi remaining last in the rankings for health outcomes, the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in our communities, and racial injustice continuing to take Black lives — and no leadership from Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in sight.

My commitment to working to bring everybody along together toward our new vision, to a new future, remains as strong as ever.

Together, let’s unite, lift each other up, and put in the work over these next 75 days to bring positive change to Mississippi through new leadership in the Senate.

Let’s make Fannie Lou proud.

You can listen Fannie Lou’s historic speech here.

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