(June 29, 2017) – A new documentary that will allow civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer to tell her own story in her own words has received a grant from The Mississippi Humanities Council.
The $7,500 grant, a part of the humanities-based Racial Equity Grant Program, will assist in the pre-production of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, a documentary produced and developed by award-winning journalist and Hamer’s niece, Monica Land.
“This was the shortest discussion the grant review committee had that day,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC). “After we showed them the one-minute teaser for the film, they voted immediately to fully fund the grant request. We are all very excited about the project.”
The MHC launched the new grant initiative in 2016 in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), to support public programs exploring the legacy of race in Mississippi. The two-year project is funded by a $250,000 grant from the WKKF of Battle Creek, Michigan.
Successful projects highlight the state’s racial and ethnic history and foster discussions about continuing racial disparities in Mississippi. The grants of $7,500 and below support grassroots projects throughout the state. The WKKF funding will also support special outreach efforts to help potential partners develop and carry out public humanities programs related to racial equity and the legacy of racism in Mississippi.
“Racial disparities continue to hamper the future progress of families and children in Mississippi. Only by educating Mississippians about the legacy of race, and having an honest discussion about its lingering impacts, can we move forward together and build a better Mississippi,” Rockoff said.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s America explores the Sunflower County sharecropper-turned- internationally renowned civil rights activist’s efforts to ‘build a better Mississippi,’ not only through her work with equal voting rights within the state, but also through her humanitarian efforts combatting poverty throughout the Delta.
Hamer, a powerfully eloquent proponent of the civil rights movement, was known the world over for being ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ She entered politics in her late 40s and frequently fired up supporters with her booming songs of faith and courage, and her heartfelt call to action. Hamer’s impassioned pleas for equal rights made her a frequent guest on radio and television broadcasts. Fannie Lou Hamer’s America departs from the traditional ‘talking heads’ documentary and allows Hamer to tell her own story by means of that extensive footage.
Fannie Lou Hamer was nearly beaten to death in a Winona, Miss., jail cell in June 1963 after returning from a voter registration workshop in South Carolina. She spoke of her brutal experience in a powerful speech delivered before the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in 1964.
Hamer died at the age of 59 on March 14, 1977 after a lengthy illness. Oct. 6, 2017 will commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth.
Also working on the film and spearheading the educational curriculum are Fannie Lou Hamer scholars and authors Drs. Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis Houck.
"I am grateful to the MHC and the WKKF for believing in our project and for recognizing the significance of learning from Fannie Lou Hamer in our contemporary political moment,” Brooks said. “Despite the deprivation and brutality she endured within the state of Mississippi, Mrs. Hamer loved her home and she was committed to making it a more just and equitable place for all its inhabitants. Contemporary audiences will come to know Mrs. Hamer and the issues that inspired her activism through Fannie Lou Hamer's America. We hope audiences will find strength and inspiration, as we all have, through her life's work."
"Mrs. Hamer's life has never been more relevant than our present moment,” said Houck, Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Communication, at Florida State University. “Her willingness to confront her country with its vicious history of racism, and how that racism plays out every day, continues to resonate--in Mississippi, and far beyond."
Award-winning producer, Keith Beauchamp, who is currently working on a feature film about the death of Emmett Till with Whoopi Goldberg has been pegged as Executive Producer. And Joe Davenport, whose film M.F.D.P. highlighted Hamer’s founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is directing and editing the film.
"This grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council is a great honor, and it puts our team even closer to sharing Fannie Lou Hamer's powerful story with a nation desperately in need of her voice and moral courage,” Davenport said. “We are currently producing a script for the film, combing through her speeches, songs, and correspondence to weave together a story told in her own words. Our goal is to finish production in time for Mrs. Hamer's 100th birthday this October."
About the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC)
Founded amidst the turmoil of federally imposed integration, the MHC plays an important role in helping to bring about social change in Mississippi, organizing and supporting interracial meetings and funding grants to communities to discuss desegregation and other important issues. Perhaps more important than funding is the MHC’s ability to offer a state-level legitimacy for such discussions and to serve as an impartial broker among differing points of view.
The Mississippi Humanities Council is a private nonprofit corporation funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi. The humanities are the study of history, literature, religion, languages, philosophy, and culture. The Mississippi Humanities Council creates opportunities for Mississippians to learn about themselves and the larger world and enriches communities through civil conversations about our history and culture.
Facebook: Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and Twitter: @flhamerica
# # #