Does the name Fannie Lou Hamer sound familiar? She is well known to historians, but not so much among the general public.
Like many other under-celebrated activists in history, Fannie Lou Hamer did not make many of the history books, though she was right alongside Malcolm X and Martin Luther King during the black freedom movement.
Stapleton resident Maegan Parker Brooks is particularly drawn to Fannie Lou Hamer for this reason. “She gave these amazing speeches, but yet when I started researching, I only found three.”
To recognize the underappreciated achievements of Fannie Lou Hamer, Brooks recently completed the book, A Voice That Could Stir an Army: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rhetoric of the Black Freedom Movement.
Brooks recounts Hamer’s life from her early influences to her intersection with the black freedom movement and finally to her rise to prominence when she gave a speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Brooks takes the reader to Hamer’s hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi, to examine the larger social and political implications of her legacy.
“The book speaks to the hole in our memory of her. Sometimes the most under-celebrated activists were the most interesting,” Brooks says. For her doctoral dissertation, Brooks co-edited, with Davis W. Houck, The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is. During her research, Brooks discovered more than 30 speeches by Hamer. “She’s got a lot to say to contemporary audiences about equality and opportunity … she really makes us rethink what we know about history.”
Proceeds from Brooks’ first book paid a large portion of the cost of a statue of Fannie Lou Hamer erected in Ruleville in 2012. Brooks is a member of the Fannie Lou Hamer Education Fund Committee and she is a lead researcher on a forthcoming documentary about Hamer.
She is also currently working on a book about the integration of Denver Public Schools. For more information visit http://www.maeganparkerbrooks.com/