Fannie Lou Hamer
She was one of the black girls who was sterilized without her knowledge or consent at the time. Hamer had polio as a child.
She protested in the face of heavy opposition and was beaten in a Mississippi jailhouse, which caused kidney damage and a limp. She is known for saying, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
Hamer was a civil rights activist who helped African-Americans register to vote and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She was involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee comprising of black students who engaged in civil disobedience to protest racial segregation in the South.
Their protests were met with violence from white supremacists, and Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at, in response to which she said:
“I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”
Despite her disability, Hamer stood out as a voting and women’s rights activist in the U.S.
She was instrumental to the Freedom Summer African-American voter registration drive in Mississippi, and co-founded the State’s Freedom Democratic Party, which opposed the all-white delegation to the Democratic convention.
Just like the sterilization, Fannie was given a hysterectomy without consent by a white doctor during her surgery in 1961 to remove a tumour.
Describing her ill health she famously said: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”.