The True Story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a Civil Rights Activist Who Marched for the Right to Vote

K.A. Ellis | 1 Feb 2024

The following text is the full biography featured in the back of our new children’s book exploring the inspirational story of Fannie Lou Hamer's life. It is part of our Do Great Things for God series, a collection of beautifully illustrated biographies written to excite young children about the great things they can do for God. This book can be read to young children aged 4-5 and read by children aged 6 or older. Click here to download free biography worksheets for kids to fill in. 

1917: Fannie was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She was the youngest of 20 children.

1923: When she was six, Fannie went to work. She picked cotton with her family on a plantation owned by W.D. Marlow. In the winter, when there was less work, she went to school. Fannie loved school, especially reading.


1929: At 12 years old, Fannie had to leave school. Her parents were too old and sick to work, so she needed to work full time to help support her family.

1945: Fannie married Perry Hamer, who was known as “Pap.” He drove tractors on the plantation where Fannie labored.

1962: When Fannie tried to vote, she kept being told that she was not allowed to, for different reasons. The state of Mississippi had passed several laws that made it very difficult for Black people to vote in elections. Because Fannie kept trying to vote, she lost her job—but eventually, after she fought hard for her rights, she and others like her were allowed to vote.

1963: Fannie worked for the SNCC (Southern Christian Leadership Conferences), trying to help other Black people be allowed to vote. Once, while she was on her way home, she and her friends were arrested. They were taken to a cell by some policemen, who beat her up so badly that she was left with permanent damage to her body, including to an eye and one of her kidneys.

1964: Fannie helped set up the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to try to make sure that Black people in the US could have the same rights as everyone else. She made a speech that was shown on television. She asked if America was really free when she and her friends were being threatened every day.

1965: President Lyndon Johnson signed a law called the “Voting Rights Act.” This law made illegal the ways that some people had used to prevent Black men and women, like Fannie, voting.

1969: Fannie gave a speech at the White House in Washington, D.C. She asked people to remember that all lives are precious, included the lives of babies who are still growing in the womb. The same year, Fannie set up the “pig bank.” A family could borrow and look after a pig until it had piglets, and then give the pig back and keep the piglets, so that they could become farmers. Later, she bought a large area of land and let people live there and farm the land. It was called the “Freedom Farm.”

1977: Fannie Lou Hamer died. She was buried in Ruleville, Mississippi. More than 1,500 people came to her funeral, including the US Ambassador to the United Nations.

K.A. Ellis

Karen Ellis is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Bible & Ethnicity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds Master’s degrees from Yale University and Westminster Theological Seminary, and works as an advocate for the global persecuted church, raising awareness and promoting indigenous leadership in countries where Christianity is restricted or repressed. Karen is married to Dr. Carl F. Ellis, Jr.

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