Fannie Lou Hamer

Heather Booth plays guitar for Fannie Lou Hamer during the Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. Creative Commons:Wallace Roberts.

On June 2, 1964, while hundreds of Freedom Summer volunteers were still finishing their training in Oxford, Ohio, three civil rights workers went missing in Neshoba County, Miss.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary Bob Moses was charged with leading the project that would organize poor, black Mississippians to challenge the power structure of the South and upset the Democratic National Convention.

Moses knew from his experience in Mississippi that James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, who had left the day before to investigate a church burning in Philadelphia, Miss., would never be found alive. Moses’ responsibility that evening was to tell the young recruits who planned to spend their summer registering voters in Mississippi that they could meet the same end.

What happened next surprised some. In small circles, the young volunteers sat and talked. Soon, they started singing.

When my children were young, I took them with me to vote. Before we went into the polling place, I said to them, "We vote because somebody died so we could have the right to vote." Now I think the reason we vote is because somebody lived so we could have the right to vote.

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I am overwhelmed at the historic nature of what's happening this week, and it's important that we all think about this. It's important for me as a Mississippian. For me, I can't stop thinking of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats and Fannie Lou Hamer. I wish Hamer could be here.

In 1964 the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) arrived at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City with the goal of unseating the "regular Democrats" and representing their fellow Democrats [...]

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