Director’s Cut: Freedom Summer and My Day with Fannie Lou Hamer

Freedom Summer: The Film
Freedom Summer: The Film

I spent yesterday with Fannie Lou Hamer, the late civil rights activist who summed up the propulsion of the movement when she said “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

First, on the way to give a series of talks at the Teach For America Summer Institute at Delta State in Cleveland, MS, I slowed to a crawl through Ruleville, her hometown, rolling past an historical marker and a garden that commemorate her lifework. Later, in the classroom, I talked to the TFA folk about Hamer’s late career agricultural work, including her Pig Bank, which was kind of a proto-CSA for working class Delta farmers.

That evening, Jess, Blair, and I watched a preview of “Freedom Summer,” the excellent documentary film that will debut nationwide on PBS on June 24. Don’t miss this film. Focused on three months in 1964, when college students from across the nation streamed into Mississippi, intent on breaking the back of white supremacy, it’s the best doc I’ve seen to date on the Mississippi freedom struggle

The most compelling character in the film is, of course, Hamer, whose eloquence and grit lights up the screen. Those of you who plan to join SFA for the Summer Symposium in Jackson will have a chance to explore her legacy and that of the Freedom Summer effort when you tour the Mississippi Museum of Art. If you can’t join us, stay tuned for podcasts of Symposium talks and be sure to watch the film on PBS on June 24.