Talk:Fannie Lou Hamer

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Biography assessment rating comment[edit]

The article may be improved by following the WikiProject Biography 11 easy steps to producing at least a B article. --KenWalker | Talk 06:47, 6 July 2007 (UTC)


She was the Youngest of 19 siblings. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 
Fixed. miranda 04:35, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

Another source[edit]

She died of heart failure according to Chana Kai Lee, not breast cancer... Another source for information on Fannie Lou Hamer: Chris Myers Asch, No Compromise: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer (PHD Dissertation, University of North Carolina, 2005)

And another source[edit]

There's a "citation needed" tag on the sentence about Mississippi and forced sterilization. Here's a source for that:

Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement by Jennifer Nelson, NYU Press, 2003. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Geeklizzard (talkcontribs) 06:58, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Medical Apartheid The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington. pg 179. Random House Press, New York 2006. Cac3521 (talk) 01:59, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

Forced Sterilization[edit]

The article states that "[w]ithout her knowledge or consent, she was sterilized in 1961 by a white doctor as a part of the state of Mississippi's plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state."

This is patently absurd on its face. If Fannie Lou was born in 1917, then she was 43 or 44 in 1961, and it is absolutely pointless to sterlize a woman in her early 40's with the idea that the procedure is going to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. By then, it is way too late. The source that is cited seems to be concerned with the ability to obtain an abortion, not with the ability to have a child. Does the cited source actually state that Fannie Lou was sterlized in her 40's? If it does, an appropriate quotation, along with the page number, should be included within the citation.

I also think that the "grandchild of a slave" designation is getting a little tiresome. If it is true, and can be supported by a citation to a reliable source, then fine, but it does not make Fannie Lou special. Most diligent and hardworking people are able to overcome the economic and political shortcomings of their grandparents. For example, I am white. My maternal grandparents were peasants in Ukraine. My paternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Kentucky and Tennessee. My paternal grandfather used to work two days on the road so that he could earn the $1.00 he needed to pay the poll tax, which was a prerequisite for voting in those days. His grandson (me) is a lawyer admitted to practice in three states.

John Paul Parks (talk) 05:29, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

It's mentioned on p.68. You can search in the Amazon or Google Books online version of the book.

"Her sterilization took place when she had to be hospitalized for the removal of a uterine tumor. Through the hospital grapevine, Hamer heard that her uterus had been excised (hysterectomy) during the operation. No doctor had informed her about the nature of her surgery or had acquired her consent for the procedure... Hysterectomy had become so common in Mississippi that it had gained the nickname 'Mississippi appendectomy' by physicians practicing in the region."

The endnotes in the book for this information are: Ellen Key Blunt, "Still to Overcome: She Found No Freedom," Washington Post, 27 January 1965, CI; Thomas B. Littlewood, "The Politics of Population Control" (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), 74-75; Julius Paul, "The Return of Punitive Sterilization Proposals: Current Attacks on Illegitimacy and the AFDC Program," Law and Society Review 3, no.I (1968-69): 78, 90; Chana Kai Lee, "For Freedom's Sake: the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer" (Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1999), 80-81 Atherva (talk) 07:58, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

She had a uterine tumor?

In that case, then removal of her uterus was justified on medical grounds, and her race had absolutely nothing to do with it. Why leave the uterus in and risk the further spread of the cancer? Removal of the uterus also reflects the way they treated cancer back then. In those days, if a woman had a cancerous lump on her breast, they performed a radical mastectomy, to make sure they removed all the cancer. With Fannie Lou Hamer, the surgeon was in a no-win position. By removing the cancerous uterus of a 43-year old woman, he is subjected to the absurd allegation that he is attempting to reduce the number of black children in the state. Just how many more children did she plan to have at age 43? If the doctor had left it in, and the cancer had spread, I suppose your source would claim that he was not willing to provide proper treatment to black cancer patients. John Paul Parks (talk) 03:53, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Well, my Dad told me that he volunteered at Oregon State Hospital (the former state hospital for the insane) in the 1950s b/c his father wanted him to become an MD. My Dad said that he witnessed a patient being operated on. He said that the surgeon said, "well, we might as well take her uterus out too. At her age, (presumably a post-menopausal woman) she won't know the difference". My Dad thought that the surgeon had a "pathology" (his words). That is, the surgeon intentionally took out the uterus for his own sick reasons. This sort of thing was apparently not uncommon and done on people who did not have the ability to defend themselves. So, yes, I believe that they took Hamer's uterus out without needing to. It was a form of violation and an abuse of power and the surgeon knew it was when he did it.

Just so you know an uterine tumor does not mean a malignant (cancerous) tumor or one that requires hysterectomy. There are a variety of benign endometrial tumors (which are very common and much more common in black women; this is most likely what Fannie Lou suffered from). And even in the 60s they could be treated by simple excision of the tumor, not removing the whole uterus, and particularly not without the patient's prior consent and knowledge. This would be considered unethical and criminal even in the 60s. However, specially in those days black patients were often treated differently due to racism. There is substantial data from both patient, physician and media records, showing black patients received consistently different, specifically substandard, medical care, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. One well-known case that you should have heard of in school was the Tuskegee trials, the repercussions of which shaped many changes in modern medical ethics. Furthermore there is also substantial data that minority women, specifically native american and black women, were forcibly sterilized even into the 70s. And if you dont want to believe that black patients, because of various factors including racism, are subject to different treatment in the medical system, particularly in very racist Jim Crow era USA-where they had very little protection and lacked the ability to exercise even their constitutional civil rights-then perhaps you should look into some current medical literature on health disparities. Even in our supposedly "post-racial" 2010 America, African Americans are more likely to receive harmful and substandard medical care, controlling for all confounding factors like SES, treatment facilities, patient morbidity, etc. ("Disparities in Cardiac Care", J of American College of Cardiology, 2004 for example but there are so many studies on this; there is even a study that shows AfAm are less likely to get treated for a heart attack even when they complain of the same symptoms as white patients-big no, no in the medical world, because you die if people are slow to recognize an MI. Its a major medical quality indicator.).

Why is it so hard for people to believe that prejudice/racism to this day has substantial impacts on the type of life people can live? Why is it hard to believe that the experience your grandparents had when entering this country (even are marginalized immigrants) would be substantially different from the life course of a black person's grandparents and thus their descendants as a result of race. At the very least your grandparents would not have had the KKK openly advocating for their deaths and taking action on that without any police recourse. B414artermis (talk) 02:03, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

I agree with B414artermis on this one. I think that, although the inclusion of the information that her grandparents were slaves may or may not be relevant, the ability of your Ukrainian grandparents to raise themselves to the point where their grandson has become a lawyer is hardly relevant, and, indeed, is vastly different from the experience of African-Americans in this country. I am not African-American, but just a cursory study of the hardships that they had to endure, especially in the south where Fannie Lou Hamer was from, would reveal that this specific subgroup in the United States not only had to push against economic constraints, but also psychological and, indeed, physical ones, as well. They were not only looked down upon, but also spat on, beat, and murdered. Should your grandparents had to endure and overcome such hardships in order to succeed, their grandson may not have had the opportunity to become a lawyer. Even with the inclusion of such as these, however, there are, I'm sure, attorneys practicing law whose lineage includes slaves. So far removed from their ancestors, it is a thing of wonder that they have attained such, in so little time, despite the persistence of racism in the south, and the country. Was the road traveled by your ancestors fraught with hardship and trial? Of that I have very little doubt. But is there sufficient evidence to compare it to that of the African-American population in general and to therefrom conclude that the trials specific to African-Americans descended from slaves was of so little consequence as to not mention? I have not seen it. Especially in a woman born not far removed from that slavery, who did continue to endure periphery subjugation because of the self-same lineage, as well as the work she was trying to accomplish. If you have doubt of that, you can read the transcript of her testimony before the Democratic National Convention here ( Yes, she was a grandchild of a slave. We should not forget that. African-Americans were so thoroughly denigrated that were we to forget that, then their continued struggle in poverty might lose focus. There are reasons for such a large group to be so thoroughly impoverished, and they do not wholly have to do with the lack of focus of the individual. In fact, it may have more to do with the teaching that, "somehow, we are less than a white person. Somehow, a white person can do more than me." No. Your ancestors were enslaved and made to think that. It was not true then, and it is not true now. Pick yourself up, just as this descendant of a slave did. Commit yourself to the truth that you can overcome, just as this descendant of a slave did. Claim yourself as a person, and not some kind of animal, just as this descendant of a slave did, and, thereby, ceased to be a slave herself. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:43, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

How can you possibly know what my grandparents faced without ever having met them? If you think that their being white gave them any sort of advantage or privilege, you are sadly mistaken.

My grandmother was from Ukraine. Her ancestors had endured the persecutions of Catherine the Great in the late 1700's, forcing them to flee from Kiev to Lviv. My grandmother, born in 1900, lost her father at age 7, and her stepfather sent her out to work at the age of 10. Then came the First World War, and she had to hide in trees to avoid being raped by the Russian soldiers. The war, of course, turned the world upside down. Finally, she came to this country, not knowing a word of English, and without a cent in her pocket.

My grandfather was a Ukrainian living in the Bucovina region of Romania. He fled Romania in 1912 at the outbreak of the Second Balkan War to avoid conscription into the Romanian Army, and was able to reach Montreal. Unfortunately, he did not know any English or French, and worked in lumber camps or held whatever other job he could get to survive. He came into the United States in 1921, which is where he met my grandmother.

Getting to the United States was not the end of my grandparents' troubles. They were foreign-born, did not speak English, and were Catholics. As such, they were the targets of nativist groups who sought to limit the ability of foreign-born non-English speaking immigrants to work and live in the United States. Recall that the KKK did not care for Catholics either, even if they were white. Also, in the Detroit area, a group known as the Black Legion was quite active in its efforts to preserve the "purity" of the United States. The Black Legion members kept bullets in their pockets as a symbol of what they proposed to do foreigners in the United States.

So what did my grandparents do? Did they whine and tell everyone about their hardships and those of their ancestors? Did they think they were owed "reparations" or other assistance by the United States? No, they did not. They worked hard. They learned English. They became U.S. citizens. Once eligible, they voted in every election. They got married and then had children. In short, they followed the rules, raised a family, and did reasonably well for themselves and their family. I was admitted to the bar only 60 years after they were both in this country. As for Fannie Lou Hamer, it has been nearly 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery, and more almost 60 years since the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and we are still hearing about the effects of "racism" in the United States, despite the fact that a black man is President of the United States.

This article seems predicated on the notion that black is uniformly good and that white is uniformly bad, and therefore suffers from a serious case of POV. It needs to be revised.

John Paul Parks (talk) 03:38, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

It's very clear in the Chana Kai Lee book, which is the seminal Hamer biography, that Hamer's sterilization WAS motivated by prejudice - even in the 1960s. Especially considering a sterilization bill for African Americans went before the Mississippi state legislature in 1964, three years AFTER Hamer's involuntary hysterectomy. Additionally, it is notable that Hamer is the granddaughter of slaves because her formerly enslaved grandmother shaped Hamer's ideas about race, gender and sex in an indelible way that shaped most aspects of her civil rights work. Let's read the books and cite the facts, y'all. Turbtastic (talk) 17:32, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

"Once eligible, they voted in every election." Interesting you should mention voting, because until 1964 the southern states had "literacy tests" which Ph.D's couldn't pass (one interesting account involves an Afro-American university professor who had to teach the poll worker how to read the passage for the literacy test, she still wasn't allowed to vote). I've often heard white supremecists argue that evidence of black inferiority comes from the fact that the children of white immigrants could pull themselves up while the children of black slaves could not, but the problem with that argument, and with yours is that the children of immigrant second-class citizens are natural-born Americans but the children of African-Americans (and their granchildren, and great grandchildren) are still African-Americans. And again, it is rather ironic that you would talk about voting and lifting ones self up through hard work in an article about a women who was beaten nearly to death, by officers of the law, for attempting to register African-American voters and for teaching them how to read. Tell me, how many people beat your parents for voting, because they were children of immigrants, how many people beat them because the learned to read? The information presented in the article is based on historical accounts and sources, we cannot ignore America's history of racism, slavery, and genocide any more then Germany can forget the Holocaust. We can't sweep our history under the rug. (talk) 03:20, 16 December 2011 (UTC)

Indeed not. And genocide is not a part of U.S. history as it relates to blacks no matter how badly you want it to be. You throw the word around because you find it suitable to your own prejudices and gives your opinion more weight. Go look up the definition.

Early life[edit]

Is there any info on who her parents were and her childhood? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:18, 27 September 2012 (UTC)