Fannie Lou Hamer Project
October 2003 — October 2004
New Jersey


The year 2004 will mark the fortieth anniversary of an event that occurred in New Jersey that had immense significance for the modern civil rights movement: the march of Fannie Lou Hamer, as a representative of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), on the 1964 Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Hamer's appearance at the convention and her testimony before the Credentials Committee catapulted her into national prominence and marked a turning point in her life. She became a heroic and towering figure of the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. Renowned for her courage, determination and willingness to undergo great personal sacrifice, coupled with a folksy style, her uniqueness lies in her being the civil rights movement's only authentic voice of what was then the most impoverished and disfranchised American: the black, rural southerner. She was also the only nationally known black female civil rights leader to have been severely beaten for her efforts in fighting racial intolerance and injustice.

In undertaking the Fannie Lou Hamer Project, a yearlong series of 2003- 2004 events commemorating her historic role at the 1964 convention and in Atlantic City is being planned. The goals and objectives of the Fannie Lou Hamer Project are as follows:

The Fannie Lou Hamer Project will occur roughly between October 6, 2003 and October 6, 2004; Hamer (1917-1977) a native of Mississippi was born on October 6th. The year-long commemoration of Hamer will be inaugurated with the following events, all designed to be informed by her spiritualityher strong sense of devotion and her divine inspiration:

Performances of Hamer Chautauquan (September 29 October 3)
As a way of introducing Hamer to students in Atlantic City and five neighboring school districts, a Chautauquan (living history performer) portraying Fannie Lou will visit middle schools in these six districts during the week of September 29 October 3. Her performances will invoke the spirit of Hamer and will help prepare students for their participation in the program centered on Hamer that will occur on October 7.

Musical Tribute to Hamer (October 5)
"Freedom songs" played a very important role in the modern civil rights movement and Hamer was the very embodiment of this culture. Her gifts as a singer were indeed used to convey the power of song for articulating the discontent and grievances, as well as the hopes and aspirations, of the civil rights protesters. The protesters used songs to help conquer their fears; songs also served as a source of inspiration. In attempting to celebrate the highly spiritual dimension of her personality that Hamer often revealed through her singing, on October 5th a musical tribute to Hamer will be held at the original Convention Center in Atlantic City, the actual site of the 1964 national convention of the Democratic Party.

Wreath-Laying Ceremony (October 6)
This relatively small, intimate program will be held at Atlantic City's Civil Rights Garden. It will consist of a wreath-laying ceremony at the garden's Column 10, which bears a quotation from Hamer's testimony before the Credentials Committee at the 1964 national convention. Anticipated program participants are some of the civil rights activists with whom Hamer associated.

Young People's Homage to Hamer (October 7)
This program, to be held at the original Convention Center, will involve students from the middle schools visited by the Hamer Chautauquan during September 29 October 3. As part of the honoring of the late civil rights leader, these students will engage in a simulcast program involving students in Ruleville, Mississippi, Hamer's hometown.

The aforementioned programs of the Fannie Lou Hamer Project are being made possible by funding provided by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

For more information:
Regina Langley, (609) 984-6428.

Copyright © 2003
Last Modified: September 5, 2003.
(Labor donated)