Op/Ed By Marc Morial –
At a time when the right to vote is being threatened, we look for inspiration in the lives of those who fought most valiantly to extend and protect that right. This fall we recognize the 100th anniversary of one of our greatest champions, Fannie Lou Hamer.
Born to a family of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, she was forced at the age of 13 from her one-room schoolhouse into the cotton fields. She was forced off the plantation where she worked when the owner found out she had tied to register to vote. She was blocked from actually registering, however, by Mississippi’s notorious racially-discriminatory literacy test. At that time, Black voters not only had to prove they could read, but also had to compose an essay analyzing a portion of the U.S. Constitution – to the satisfaction of a white registrar. White applicants were exempt from such requirements under so-called “grandfather clauses.”