Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC flashback: Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

The Democratic National Convention in Denver has begun. Let me slip into historian mode to share sounds from conventions past.

First is from the 1964 convention in Atlantic City, where incumbent President Lyndon Johnson got the nomination.

On August 22, 1964 – two days before the convention proper – the Democratic credentials committee was embroiled in a drama over Mississippi.

The official Mississippi delegation was “lily- white” (as people used to say). That state’s Democratic Party excluded Negroes. But a “rump delegation” also showed up in Atlantic City... the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. It was mostly black.

Which delegation would be seated at the Democratic National Convention?

In the end, the “Freedom Democrats” rejected a compromise pushed by the party leadership: that two black “at large” delegates be seated with the all-white delegation.

It was a moot point as President Johnson was nominated by acclamation. There was no roll call of the states. But the Mississippi showdown caused the Democratic National Committee to change its rules for 1968, and to outlaw segregated delegations.

And into the pages of history stepped voting-rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Click here to hear Mrs. Hamer’s 8-minute statement to the DNC credentials committe in 1964. (You can download this MP3 by following this link to


daughterofthedream said...

I adore FLH!!

UBM, have you ever calculated how many hours of online research you have conducted scouring these internets?

LOL, you should be a teacher with the broad spectrum of stuff you come up with, all your themes and other relevant finds!

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thanks, daughterofthedream. Internet addiction is the new crack, you know.

It's mostly about educating myself. I certainly had heard of Fannie Lou Hamer, but I must admit I didn't know what she did in the movement until I started looking through old political speeches online.

neptune said...

NPR included some moments from and about her in a segment they did yesterday on the key civil rights figures who set the stage for arrival of an Obama candicacy. Can be heard here:

Geneva Girl said...

Off topic: Today's International Herald Tribune, the NY Times for the rest of the world, had a major MBP. There was a picture of Michelle Obama at the convention labeled, "Michelle Obama with daughters Malia, left , and Sahsa, doing a sound check..."

The problem was the picture was indeed of Malia and Michelle, but with an unidentified black, ADULT woman. The woman looks familiar, but I can't place her name. I can't yet find the picture on the IHT site.

Another off topic: Your alma mater, U of MD got a blurb in the local Swiss paper today for giving its students free iPhones (telephone calls not included) as part of an experiment to see how students use the device for their school work. Hmm... Let's see. What kind of games can we play during class?

It's been a strange UBM-kind of day.

makheru bradley said...

If anyone has a chance they should read "We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi" by Seth Cagin and Philip Dray.

The book offers vivid details of white supremacists barbarism in Mississippi during the 1960s, such as the brutal beating Mrs. Hamer and several other Black women suffered inside the jail in Winona in 1963.

To say that Mrs. Hamer possessed extraordinary courage would be an understatement.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thank you for that, Makheru.

Anonymous said...

Thanks UBM,

I could not ignore the contrast between the hypothetical satire of Auster's Philly comments about his stabbing death at the hands of the all-purpose BLACK MAN and the clinical testimony of Mrs. Hamer.

He is in control of his demise and can predict all of the circumstances with certainty and no apparent fear. His fear is reserved for any presidency not held by a white man.

Mrs. Hamer's message is the antithesis of the Philly raconteur. She had no control over the employer who dismissed and banished her, nor the night riders who fired into her home. She had no control over the officer of the peace as he ordered two men to beat her with a blackjack until the men were no longer physically able to mete out the punishment nor could she preserve her dignity when sexually humiliated by being stripped bare before three men.

As Shakespeare wrote in Julius Ceasar, "A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero but one." Mrs. Hamer still bares witness to the heroism of all in the Movement that weighed their very lives in the balance with freedom.

caged bird