Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was a sharecropper in Ruleville in Sunflower County, Mississippi, who was drawn into the Civil Rights Movement by her desire to secure equality and voting rights for all of America’s people. Young met Hamer before she died in 1977.
“I wrote the play to give voice to a then unsung heroine and because the Civil Rights Movement was an important part of my own life,” Young said.
If you were a child or an adult of the 1960s, you know where you were when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon - and when Fannie Lou Hamer showed up at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in sweltering August 1964.
Hamer rocked the convention and shocked the world when she led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as they challenged the seating of the official, all-white Mississippi delegation. At the time, 42 percent of the people in Mississippi – the African Americans – were not allowed to even register to vote.
Hamer's group failed to win any convention seats in the official Mississippi delegation. But they were offered two votes at large, as a compromise; but the compromise denied them the chance to vote on the floor of the convention.
"After 100 years, we wouldn't accept a compromise because 63,000 people at that time was registered with the Freedom Democrat' Party," Hamer explained.
But Hamer won, in the sense that she raised awareness of black people's plight. After that, there was no turning back for America.
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In these live performance photos, Young portrays Hamer at four different venues. She has given more than 800 performances of the show worldwide.
Fannie Lou Hamer
"Sometimes it seems, to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I'll fall 5-feet-4-inches forward in the fight for freedom."
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Hamer: This Little Light. CLICK HERE to contact us.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Billie Jean Young is Fannie Lou Hamer. Is.
Young's transformational performance in this one-womans show is so personal, not only in its tapping of Hamer's spirit – but in its stirring encroachment into the depths of our own hearts and minds. Just as when she lived, Fannie Lou Hamer will not leave you alone in this rarest of plays.
Also written by Young, Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light has become a staple, an anthem, a regular refresher for the Civil Right Movement. As human rights have faced new challenges since the play premiered in 1983, Young's capturing of Hamer's message has remained as strong and timeless as ever.
The two-act play is a narrative of Hamer's life as an American voting rights activist and civil rights leader. Young is internationally acclaimed for this drama and has performed it on four continents, including in almost every U.S. state, multiple times.
starring Billie Jean Young