tv Kate Clifford Larson Walk With Me CSPAN December 23, 2021 11:10pm-12:18am EST
cspan.org/history. >> welcome to tonight's program, the discussion of civil rights leader. welcome to tonight's program. a discussion of civil rights leader fannie lou hamer. my name is marcia ely, director of the center for brooklyn history and part of a series that brings you climate reads, let films and much more. if you are curious about any of these intriguingly titled programs i hope you will visit
the vpl website and find out more. tonight, three women, all leaders in their own right, will be in conversation about the extraordinary and inspiring life of fannie lou hamer, whose courage and spirit and faith gave her the strength to lead the fight for racial justice and equality in jim crow mississippi. it is distressing today that in pockets across the country voting rights are again threatened. and hamer's stories all the more timely. so tonight's program is inspired by a new book written by one of our panelists kate clifford larson, titled walk with me, a biography of fanny lou hamer. and i want to share that we will put a link in the chat for those interested in exploring the title further.
the link is to a page on the website of the local brooklyn bookstore, our partner in park slope. i also want to share that you have the option to engage closed captioning tonight. simply click that button at the bottom of your screen. and finally, you are all invited to share your questions for our panelists tonight. take them throughout the program into the q&a box at the bottom of your screen. and they will take as many as there is time for. now let me briefly tell you a bit about kate larson and our partners and handed off to them. so, dr. kate clifford larson, is the author of bound for the promised land, harriet tubman, an american hero. rosemary, the hidden kennedy
daughter. and some mary surround and the plot to kill abraham lincoln. she has served as a consultant on documentaries, public history and elsewhere. she is currently a brandeis university women studies scholar. and her most recent book is "walk with me", a biography of fannie lou hamer, released just this month. karen hill's president and ceo of the harriet tubman home in auburn, new york, which she successfully pursued federal legislation to have the home become one of the newest units of the national parks service. prior to that, she spent 30 years working on affordable housing development, including the federal appointment to implement the courts order to desegregate the city of juncker
's yonkers. she was also chief executive of the american, homeowner, education and counseling initiative. thank you for being here. and finally, cynthia copeland's president of the internet to toot for the seneca history. and chair of the episcopal diocese for new york. she has teaching affiliations at the university of new york -- and teachers college and a host of nonprofit and cultural institutions through the country. i want to thank all of you for being here tonight with us. and i'm excited to hear your conversations and i'll handed over to you. >> thank you, marcia. >> thank you, marcia. hello kate and karen.
and we should all remember to unmute ourselves. i'm so excited to be here tonight. i'm particularly interested in the current fight for voting rights. it is just horrendous to me, as we think about it daily in 2021. and we think about the people who fought to give us those rights. and they are one to have an incredible position in pushing this forward. a lot of people know of fannie lou hamer but they know of her from being sick and tired of being sick and tired. sadly if that is sort of the extent of it. they have a general idea, a notion of who she is. maybe they have had the experience of seeing her in old footage at the democratic
national convention in atlantic city, firing off her wonderful statement. really, other than that, there seems to be a sort of a super superficial kind of understanding of fannie lou hamer. and kate, you have done an incredible job going deeper and offering an opportunity for all of us to find out so much more, and to have an incredible intimate relationship with her. i am just wondering what inspired you to write the book? >> it's sort of easy and complicated. you know, fannie lou hamer inspired me to write the book. she is an amazing woman,. we had been on my mind for 25 years. and this last time when i was looking, a few years ago when i was looking for a new project,
she was there. you know, knocking and saying maybe it is about time. i decided to start researching her life and i got hooked, like i did with harriet tubman. i became hooked on her life and her passion, and her brilliance. what she did and i am amazed at what she sacrificed to bring change in this country. i hope everybody learns about her and celebrates her and carries on what she could no longer carry on after the fact. >> karen, what does fannie lou hamer mean to you? >> it's interesting, cynthia. in one of the photos of fannie lou hamer, there is a real strong likeness to my own grandmother. okay? my own grandmother, similar in build, in stature, you know?
she was very old in her being. for me, i can remember, i am old, okay? i can remember being riveted by all that went into getting us to 1965, and what proceeded. it was a topic of conversation in our household. you know? me, my parents, my great grandparents, we lived together. it was a topic that these voting rights have to happen. a woman from mississippi and she is singing the songs that my family really grounded in
their own christian faith, and the freedom church, the zion church, freedom songs. you know, it was grounded in me that this woman was a part of the charge. it was interesting, because, just to go fast forward, it was like, fannie lou hamer and other women did this groundbreaking work. and then i feel unfortunately, they have been forgotten. the modern civil rights era came about and we have all of these men from a whitney young too the naacp, and dorothy height was catapulted as the lone woman leader. not remembering or honoring or
acknowledging me in a way that should have been acknowledged of fannie lou hamer's absolute dynamic change in the body politics, within the democratic party. now, i say that because everything happens for a reason, and things kind of come full circle. also, at that time, when i was 12, 13 years old, and voting rights had not been passed, and i remember my family being really critical. everybody was eligible to vote, had to vote the same way, to be honest with you, with tides. nd collect everi'd go and collect everybods envelope on saturdays and deliver them. even if he didn't go to church, you'd have to have your tie. there were certain things. voting was one of them, ties were one of them. i thought that struggle was
behind us, quite frankly, to go back to your opening statement. i really come at this from i do the work of tubman, and one of my bag, i am so honored kate would even be in this charge, lead this charge. she has, sort of, taken the threat of tubman to the next stage with hamer. you now? and i see the women of today need to be lifted up also. a lot of the movements going on today are really being led by women who don't want to be identified as leaders, but they are the leaders. you know, tubman was fearless, was faithful and fearless. i see hamer coming from that same tradition of being
faithful and fearless. you have to have that. i am convinced of it. whoever you worship, you have to have faithfulness and fearlessness to do the work, to bring us into equality. it is unfortunate, it is unfortunate that, still, today, this country, there is a part of this country that seems resolute and not granting full and equal rights to all of her people. you know? not having her joined the franchise. harriet would be so pleased that fannie lou hamer is having this time. she doesn't feel, like with harriet, not with our struggle, but having to explain a historical, a truly historical figure. fannie lou hamer seems, very
much, of a contemporary, an older contemporary. these struggles are very real today and going on today. when you have black men being shot in the back, and being held down, and by law enforcement. those are, like, those a recapitulation's of what happened during hamer's time. we have an advance to the extent that we could look at hamer as a historical figure, but rather we need to lift her up and we need to share her far and wide, and learn the lessons of faith and fearlessness. >> it's interesting you brought up these threads, and recurring themes, and have introduced the idea when we were thinking about drawing the parallels between tubman and hamer, which
are just unbelievable. you cannot, if you've studied those two women, and especially if you've studied them from kate's books and her works, you will really come to have this incredible understanding. it is interesting you bring up this point it is so fresh and real through hamer, because it is in our lifetimes, right? if any of us are a product of 1960 civil rights movements, and the post, to a certain degree. women's rights and deliberation came about. and those who studied that, and are knowledgeable of it can really sense and feel her presence. then they tap on harriet, who was 100 years before that. there is a little bit of a gap. yet, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
we are fighting for these same rights over and over again, maybe getting closer, maybe women are starting to get more recognition, but both of these stories are definitely women's stories. i think i'd like for kate and for us to get into more of this conversation about what exactly did hamer do? thwhat was that faith that carried her through to be able to be resilient, to be resistant, to be able to, you know, be so committed to her community, to her people? and not just to her people, this was for everyone. her people first, but this was going to benefit everyone. she recognized that. she said she was tired, but she kept getting up, and she kept fighting, and kept going back. i'm hoping maybe we could kind of talk about what exactly, you know, i hate to be like what are the high points and what do we really know about her?
we don't have a lot of time together on this talk. we do want to intrigue people so that they will go out and get the book and read it a little bit more. they could have discussions and really give fannie lou hamer the credit she deserves, and the recognition, and the acknowledgment. let's talk about who she was, how she spoke, truth to power. this idea of violence that shrouds the lives of black women in particular. you know, from harriet to hamer to the present times. all of these issues that we are talking about that have been threaded throughout. i'll throw it out to us for our conversation on those ideas. >> i like to look hamer at as, we were talking about her fate, i mean, she was born and raised in a very strict baptist household. her faith was a part of her total being. it was in their home, in the
earth around their house, and it was part of her. she had to survive extreme poverty, and circumstances in the mississippi delta as a child and as a teenager. her faith many times was the only thing, and her family's fate was would help them survive the gnawing hunger in their bellies, and the violence that world around them, the discrimination and the racism. when she was an adult at look at a few moments in her life that transformed her. and there were acts of violence against her, and some people would have retreated and receded and hidden or runaway. she thought about those things. she turned to her face, and she prayed that she would survive and asked god, her god, you know, what should i do? give me a sign.
i look at her being reborn a couple of times as a result of violence and the trauma that happened to her. at one point, she said something to the effect of, as she started emerging and the movement, or started to commit herself to the movement, she told colleagues and audiences she felt those white supremacists have been trying to kill her all along. so, what is the difference? she might as well go out and fight as long as she had breath, and that's what she did. she changed peoples lives because she was so honest and authentic and direct. she didn't mince words. she called out people. it didn't matter if they were black or white. she called them out to their inconsistencies, their disingenuousness. she had business to do. voting and bettering the lives of her family, her community, the world. that's what she did. she really did.
>>. it's interesting that tubman had to leave where she was born in order to do her work that changed america to make a difference. and that hamer had to stay where she was born to change america and make a difference. both of these women were incredibly smart. they had an intellect that came from another place that we don't often honor. or acknowledge. they had an intestinal fortitude, incredible determination, amazing-y genius in there being. knowing she had to leave to
make the difference. the value of moving from the land of the enslaved to the north. and one in the deeper south knowing that the deeper south was not left behind. she needed to stay to make the difference that needed to happen. imagine, if she didn't do the work she, did i don't know, you know, the dixiecrats would still be the dixiecrats loud and clear. kneit's interesting that they w they were both in tune with what was going to make the difference. how anybody sort of coached them one way or another. you know, they knew it instinctively. >> that's a great observation. now that you say that, hamer saw that herself.
she knew what she got involved in the movement, she could have moved to washington d.c. or new york city, and been part of the movement there in some structured organization. she chose to stay in the community in mississippi. she knew the needs there were so great. and also she was fortified by those students, they nonviolent coordinating committee, all of the young people that came to mississippi. and they were willing to go through being hungry and the violence, confronting and dealing, and during that violence. when some of her neighbors were not willing to do that. she found being there on the landscape of mississippi was transforming people from a way. they were going to take that with them someplace oust. she actually said that those
nonviolent coordinating committee students were for her the new kingdom on earth, that they were more christian-like than some of the people that she knew in her world. that motivated her, that if they could be so moved and driven, she was going to show them the way and be part of that. >> then we've got these students that are coming from all over geographically, primarily. then you've got white students coming down from the north, who had never been in the deep south, and had only heard about it. you know, encountered something they perhaps weren't ready for. you also had young folks who were from the region, where hamer was, and you also had students who are of sort of the upper black south, if you will.
i'm wondering if we could talk a little bit about any sort of class issues that came into play during these efforts to try to move things forward. we are talking about these two women, again, speaking of tubman and hamer about the intelligence and the brilliance and the genius that they had. natural organizers, natural risk takers, natural folks that just relied so heavily in a greater power to get them through. having that incredible commitment. it needs to be done. a just do, it kind of attitude. there were people who did not necessarily like those women for doing that. they weren't expecting these folks to be, you know, as exceptional. they were the exceptional ones. how is that you are going to have these commoners that can't speak intelligently or to the standard that they have become
measured against. can we talk a bit about the internalized class justice in general, and the difference between the deep south and the south? >> go ahead, karen. >> you go, kate. >> i think tubman could not read or write. her literacy was an issue for elites in the abolition movement, let's say. she had many under other literacy's, and because of her strong faith and her amazing genius and personality, she navigated that class environment. she had work to do. she was like, okay, frederick douglass, if you don't have time for me today, i'm going to go rescue somebody, or i'm going to do something else. that is not to denigrate frederick douglass. i am saying he was of a different class, and that
played out in their relationship. and with hamer, it was the same thing. she had a sixth grade education. her genius was so vast, she lived in a world where men, white and black men, still were in control, in their own worlds. and elite men didn't want hamer rising to the top. they thought she was uncouth and unsophisticated and they didn't want her image in the national, used on the newspapers or television. they wanted to be the ones that are doing that. she did the work. she was on the ground. she was bearing the brunt of all that violence and she was determined to bring the people up, and the elite, sometimes, did not see the faces or hear the voices of the average mississippi delta farmer. that's the truth. >> i would like to say that
with tubman, she knew how to own the room, okay? she needed to get her point across. she knew how to, you know, we knew at the photograph, kate, you and i were looking at of young harriet, she knew that was the attire she would wear to go just to the mansion, or one of the other abolitionists who get her point across. i know from the work i've done on suffrage that they knew that they needed her more than she needed them. okay? she could articulate that message of women becoming a part of the franchise, even though it would not include her. even though she was an owner of property. i think that is a part of the beauty of both tubman and hamer.
they had an ability to see an america that was beyond the current circumstance, which is really hard. i don't have that ability. they had that ability, and that's what they worked towards. they did not stay stuck in current conditions. and then there were, as far as the elitism, there is the exception of moses who had his education, who did move south. he went from new york, d.c., then atlanta. then he realized he needed to go deeper south because what's happened? there is the south, and there is the deeper south. where the real change that needed to happen that would
galvanize everyone was the work that needed to happen in the deeper south. there were some men who were willing to be led by the circumstances and buy hamer's personality for change. i just think that both hamer and tubman saw in america that no one else saw, quite frankly. they were willing to put their lives on the line to make that happen. >> i think it's interesting that you are saying these two women were capable of envisioning a future, an america that would live up to the ideals of the constitution and the declaration of independence, sutter. i am wondering if the fact they were working with abolitionists in the case of harriet, and in
the case of fanny, she had the sncc moves and diversity of peoples that were starting to question that which had been taught to them as a means. i am wondering if you think that these were, sort of, the fuel that could help to keep them going and help to believe that this was indeed the case. young people, women that were outside and accepting them and having maybe not completely and fully, but giving them a bit of a platform, and being able to listen to them and know that, you know, in god's eyes, this isn't right. that ain't right. that ain't right, folks. you call yourselves to christians, and they had that sense of that ain't right. they pushed forward and tried to hit people morally, but also
economically. they recognized where this was going economically, and just because humanity, looking for the humanity and every single person. not necessarily appreciating what you do and what you've done to my family as a white supremacist, or in the muck of white supremacy, maybe you don't want to be in, it but you're in it, right? i can see you are a human being, and i want that recognition. i wanted for my people, for all people. shifts made theiri'm wondering k maybe like those shifts, that kind of made their appearances and of course it was a lot of their work and they're doing to get to those points. could that have been a possibility to help us in vision and realize that this is possible? >> i know, with tubman, she was fortunate to have met some of the most powerful abolitionists
in the country at the time. while it took her a little bit to trust them, once they earned her trust, it motivated her and supported her and energized her. those relationships are very important to her, and they became, she became lifelong friends with some of them. they were part of her transformation and her rising and being able to do more of what she wanted to do. and with hamer, it is absolutely the same thing. she was frustrated, she did a few things that had to deal with the civil rights movement, and trying to get local people interested and pushing for some rights and trying to make a difference in their world. it wasn't going anywhere and she didn't have the tools in mississippi. the tools were not there. so when they came to rule ville, it was the moment for her. she knew they had come and it
was her one opportunity to try to see if she could do something. when they gave her the tools to try to register to vote, that's all she needed. she could see that they wanted to work with her. they weren't going to lead her. they were giving her tools. that changed her life. it really changed her life. those young people looked up to her. like, you said, karen, she owned the room. she may have understood she did have a powerful voice, she had no idea she could hold a room with kids and young people coming from around the country who are well educated, some of them were very well off. they looked at her and awe. that empowered her. she knew she was making a difference. >> i think you are absolutely right. i was going to add to that and say i find it, and this is my
very own personal views that, when you have a woman who could neither read nor write, and you have a woman who had a sixth grade education, who was doing a lot of the keeping of records, and a lot of the administrative work to keep all the plantation running the way it needed to with a sixth grade education, when you have those opportunities that they had, for how we value formal education, and how we learn in this country, there had to be something else. there had to be something on the inside that manifested itself on the outside their actions. and it was like in their head
that they had these deliberate moves that had to be made in a certain time, in a certain place. it was an order to make the difference. a level of commitment and contentment that it may not all be south in our lifetime, but it would be these major steps moving toward the promise of america. i think that that is an amazing thing, that the promise of america was e in there. how does that happen? how does that happen? >> right. >> when you see your people being beaten and mistreated, and living on the margins, but
you still believe in the promise of america, and for me, i have to juxtapose all of that with what is happening today. tory is great. but history is great, but i've often said history, for history sake, doesn't mean a thing unless you can apply that history in a way that is practical application that moves us towards the mark. getting closer towards the mark. that's when i see e hamer in particular. the reason, kate is a personal friend, she is a great historian, i love her, e but kate was hankering to do this book when these issues were grappling today on the front page of new york times every day, okay?
and it's something that grabbed hold of kate even that said this book must be written. this is a book of our time. this is a book for young people in particular to be fortified by this book. and things i truly believe, i believe as deep as i can that people are in certain places at certain times to carry the message forward, and to continue the meaning of the drums. okay? the drumbeats. and this book is the drum of our time. >> i think kate, as a sage, is correct and bringing these issues altogether. you know, the book is timely. it deals with the issues of violence of women, it deals with the voting rights situation, it deals with the issues of climate and geography,
and what is happening in these spaces. it deals with the issues of housing, right? and education. it's also -- >> health care. >> health care. >> completely and totally, it is right up there. you know, in thinking about, kate, how was that they were able to organize the book? because with all of these issues going on. did you feel like you were in some kind of a, i don't know, a time warp tornado, sending you forward? i don't know what you are in, but it must have been this incredible space where you are like, wait a second, this was happening, why are we doing this again? how can we get out of this? and choosing those points that resonated with you, needed to be spoken about. i would ask you if you can, to just give the folks a little bit of a heads up about what i
think is the most difficult chapter in the book, which is the wine on a chapter. >> as far as biography, karen's right. when i started this because exploded on the scene in the past few years had not quite happened. white supremacy was always there. that wasn't different. as i did the research, and we're in writing this, i was like wow, people are using the same language today that they were using back then to keep african americans from voting and giving the same reasons why and it was freaky to me that this was happening. but hamer, for me, the book is important because it also is instructive on organizing community organizing, movement organization, and that it can't always just be delete. there are people like fannie lou hamer in our communities today that needs support.
they are able to rise up of people recognize them as the ones that could be the leader. fannie lou hamer was recognized by bob moses immediately. like, he knew she was going to take the reins in mississippi. there are people like that today. we have to pay attention to them and support them. and understand there will be different views and complications along the way. this has happened before. there is a blueprint. on both sides of this, and we need to be aware of it. it is, yeah, timely. very timely. i did not anticipate that. i am grateful the book is out now. as far as the book is concerned, i wanted to make it as authentic to fannie lou hamer as possible. having come to know her over these past few years, researching her and interviewing people that knew her, i felt it was my
responsibility to reveal some of the things that happened in her life. one of them was this horrific beating that she received in the winona county, mississippi jail in 1963 that transformed her life, changed her life, it nearly killed her. the chapter is very difficult because it details what's happened almost minute by minute. i did that because i had the fbi files, i had the interviews. i had details that had not been available before. i know that hamer would want everyone to know exactly what happened to her. so, that is the warning. you have to read it. she survived it. she would want everyone to read it and understand what happened. some of that is still happening today. don't look away. you have to read it. you have to let it sink in.
and then we could have more conversations about it. >> karen, in reading the book, what new insights did you take away from the story of hamer that you hadn't known before and what would be perhaps the most troubling, difficult faces to understand and sit with and rest, with and would give you hope? >> a lot of it was deeply personal for me. you know, i can, when she was given that hysterectomy without her permission, you know, that was horrific, and she wanted children so badly.
and that was deeply personal for me because i remember, as a young woman, i had gotten one of those letters that said, you know, you need to get a mammogram, then you have to go back and get those, and the letters scared me, you have to go back. for a couple of years, i was constantly going to be screened again and again. i was able to talk to you a haitian american, ob/gyn, who said that, we shared with me, i had a grandmother who had a double mastectomy. because she lived like another 30 years after that. and when my doctor looked at her records, my grandmother didn't have breast cancer. it's what they did to black
women. it's what they did to black women. the easy way out. cut it out. get rid of it. so, you, know when i say this book hit me personally, i mean very personally. you know? that is happening, like it's not everybody needs health care, it's the quality of the health care that everybody needs. so, i am glad merrick garland is going to be suing the state of texas. okay? that is important to me. that is extremely important to me. and when i was doing my work in the city of juncker's, and i was hired when that city was found to be in contempt in federal court, and they were being fined a dollar a day. they're fines got all the way up to 4 million and something dollars a day. that's when i was appointed by
the federal court to come in and do the work. i understand not everybody is going to be with you all the time. that was an extremely lonely time for me outside of my family. a lot of black people needed the jobs that they had, you know? they were free to speak, up afraid to come to public meetings, even though i was there to help with, the conditions, these people did not want to be so identified. we there was an incident where someone was killed off the back of a garbage truck. the truck ran over them. this stuff happens. it's real. everything doesn't make it to headlines so, you know, i relate to this book. i try to do my walker as best i can, as best i am able.
now, to me, the hamer book becomes another guidepost for me. another guidepost for me. i really think there's something incredible about these women. their blackness, they did not try to hide from it, or shy away from, or mute the. okay? you know, and a lot of the struggle has been about two is the better looking, who is the fairer complexion to be the face of. i so appreciate harriet tubman. i so appreciate fannie lou hamer. it shows that in all of our
blackness, which we have to wear every day, these women were able to lead. they are exempt lawyers of how your blackness can catapult you towards your greatness. y have lovingagain, they had lo. i mean, you have to know the compassion that they had to have. not only for themselves, as black people, but for whites also. they were trying to make america better. this wasn't just going to help black people. you know? to move the needle towards enfranchisement through voting. this was mostly helping white people! you know, so far, they don't understand, you might come across people who don't understand that there is this possibility to truly believe in the promise of america and the
constitution is not perfect. there's issues with the federalist society, it's not perfect. it is there for us to improve upon. they knew that. they knew that with no education, and they knew it was a sixth grade education. so what's the, i won't say it, but what! the people who are learning from harvard and yale and princeton, and who sit in our great congress who don't get it, who don't get it. >> or who get it and choose to ignore it. >> yes. that's because there are so into self. that is the whole thing. self. hamer and tubman did not put itself first. what they are doing is advancing their own political careers. they aren't looking at the greater good. we're not looking at how to improve our constitution. they don't see where inclusion
is going to happen. i was listening to a news report last evening, where the reporter is saying how all these movements are beginning to add up, you know? becoming these small victories becoming bigger and bigger, and bigger. it is going to happen! that would be my message. it is going to happen! i may not be here, they may not be here, but it is going to happen! so, why not embrace that if not for yourself, if you love your children and their children, get on board, you would want to be on the right side of this, because that is a better america. >> i agree. it does seem these two women were also about family in the deepest sense of the word, and operated from a place to make improvements, to make for hope,
to make for a love, too, you know, opportunities. it started with family, and so it's kind of like that micro to macro and so on and so forth. they also came to realize that family is everything. family is the nuclear would i've got. you know what, you are my family! you are my family. and they just embraced and adopted everybody. they were everyone saudis. they were everyone's, you know, big mama's. they were everyone's nursemaids. they were everything to the community, and i am wondering if you could speak to the ideals of nurturing that was a part of who they were. there was the nurturing, but also the knowing and the ability to lead without necessarily calling yourself a leader, and understanding the whole idea of the collective.
we don't get anywhere if we aren't working within the collective spirit, so maybe we could talk about that a little? >> i know that is very much true with hamer. i think her mother was an amazing woman who did everything to protect her children, protect hamer, raise her to be who she became. but hammer learned about the church halls and that women would gather together raise money for this organize for that or help this family that was struggling more than the rest of them were. hammer and the little girl would go to these meetings and she learned really the basics of democracy there. they could not explain fit anywhere else but in that church hall, that is what they were learning. she was learning from those women. as she grew up, she became those women. so there is something very
specific about women and black women in particular in the black church that are learning this community and expanding the concept of family far greater. that is where hammer really shined. she had the genius of. there was something about her, i don't know what but there is something about her that made her that much different that she could go on and be a leader in the community. >> i know it for tubman, when she established the home for the ages, she had eight women as managers. that was really remarkable that she understood it was not enough for her to build these cottages so the indigent former slave could age in dignity and grace. as she needed to pass it on so
these women would be the people who would provide the governance. okay? that is remarkable. she understood about sharing it and passing it on. on the tubman side, kate, we struggled with her core values faith, family, freedom, community, self-determination, equality, social justice all of these things are the same for hammer. the core values are exactly the same. and they have made an indelible imprint, an indelible imprint on our progress, on this journey that you know, we are not where we
want to be. but it gives me great hope to know that we can get there as long as when we acknowledge the tubman's and the hammers of our time and support the broader community, you know they were servant leaders. and i think that the different leadership style. so amazing and so different they believed in servant leadership. and you know, like my thing is, we have a lot of leaders we don't have a lot of servers for we do not have leaders who will wash somebody's feet. they were the kind of leaders that would. >> which ties into a question we have from lisa who asks. who do you think this hammer would tap as the new
generation family lou a new type of servant leader type if you will have our black lives matters movement with stacy abrams we have folks out here, who do you think? >> she was all about young people and so certainly stacy abrams. i think she might let the leaders rise up themselves. she would not kind of anoint anybody. she would be supportive once that person kind of arises but she would be there to support and help move the needle forward. there are a lot of movements now cooks that would be what bob moses did in casting her noticing the genius and saying i need to do more of this or
that. >> i'm reluctant to even name anybody producing issue name anybody there's a charge on twitter, instagram and the other. i support all of the sisters. i will say this about stacy abrams. both of her parents are methodist ministers. there is a grounding that comes. and they did not have much and they had a big family. there is a grounding that comes from having faith in your core. and that is what i see as a common thread between tubman and hammer, and stacy abrams. >> we are talked about this idea of leaders, we talk in preparation for the conversation that black lives matter sort of operating on
that same type of model if you will. so they are finding ways to adjust to different types of circumstances that arrive, which can likely be very useful, very helpful innate means of survival to get through all the stuff being thrown at them in so many different ways, just trying to choose your battles, pick your battles. what is going to stick? where my going to give my voice the loudest? and speaking of voices, we know hammer was known for her incredible voice music, folk songs, played a major role. can we talk about music in her life and the title of your book? >> soap music was always a part of her life. she was identified with having a beautiful voice even as a little girl.
it was in her home, in the fields, everywhere around her. she grew up singing group with the delta blues which is the birth site of the delta blues was 6 miles from her home. in church, the spirituals, the gospel music, so it infused her life. so, everyone links hammer with this song, this little light of mine which she sang a lot during rallies and things like that during the movement. but her favorite song was called a walk with me. it's about asking jesus to walk with me, support me, help me, guide me, give me strength. she is saying that in the wenona jail after she been brutally beaten and assaulted. she was barely conscious and she asked her cellmate to sing the song with her, walk with
me. that fortified her to make it through the night and survived that beating. that is why it's the title of the book, walk with me. >> looks like we also have a question from esther who says that hammer died young in her final years being so difficult, what kind of support that she received from the movement in her final years? >> she did not receive a lot of support from the movement. the movement had fallen apart by the 1970s. a lot of the young people had gone in different directions. some got involved in a black panther movement and other movement went on to graduate school, to jobs and to do other things. they left mississippi. some of the leaders in mississippi went on to organize in a different way than hammer was organizing.
people to plant gardens, grow their own food, raise hogs so they would have meat for the winter time. and health care, she wanted healthcare for everybody. it was not good healthcare and accessing it was very difficult and expensive. she wanted universal preschool for every child. she was struggling for all the issues we are still struggling for that. she understood those basic things in her community could be replicated throughout the country. but her support system really fell away and it is tragic anyway. but a lot of those people went on to do great things in other parts of the country. that left her still in mississippi struggling with that economy, that environment. and it still in the bottom five for healthcare. and for education et cetera in
the country so mississippi is still struggling. >> is there a landmark to show her she's from and recognize her? >> yes there is a monument to her to gravesite in louisville, mississippi. there is a beautiful statue of her and she is buried there next to the freedom farm she helped establish in the early 1970s. so you can go and visit her. but the area is still very much depressed very much. >> can you talk a little bit more about that as she went down to experience the space and what kind of insights didn't give you and how did it inform your approach to writing the book? >> so i did not make it to mississippi because of covid and floods. which is the bad thing about this epidemic. i had to cancel trips down to mississippi and that mighty
mississippi river flooding did not help a couple years ago. so i was not able to go and see that landscape. i watched lots of documentaries, videos online about the environment of course talk to family members of her and people who knew her who live there. so that i could fill in those gaps. but i did not go. but they all said the same thing it is still very much a depressed area. >> throughout the conversation we have noted just how much of violence as a part of the history in the story. we talked about the connections and relationships that were so important to hamer and tubman. we talked about exploring activism and the engagement and organizing ways. what kind of messages can each of you leave the audience as having been inspired by both
tubman and hammer in the hopes people can pick up on that energy and work to perhaps emulate or honor at least two amazing women. >> i can say it right away, go ahead. >> i'll take the last word. [laughter] >> i think the hammer book is a new opportunity. it is a new opportunity for all of us to learn, not only women, but men and young people in particular who may be did not know that it was not that long ago we were having voting rights in particular. and it young people who perhaps did not know the
extent to which so much of this country still lives at the margin. still lives at the margin. and that, you know, when we begin to connect our center cities with rural america, we will be better off. >> i agree. >> a lot of my work and other spaces that is the big issue, people who live in the metropolis have to have a healthier, better relationship with people who live in rural america if we really want to overcome the social justice issue that we have been talking about for the last hour. but i would say this book is a touchdown. i really encourage people to read it, read it not to sift through it read it in a measured way that allows your self to take a step back and
see how you are connecting up with the various chapters of the book. because it is so timely and it is so relevant. >> thank you karen. i am just briefly going to say, watching off what she just said, i hope people will read it and recognize the values hammer had or similar to the values we all have. but she took action. so, and reading this i'm asking people to interrogate themselves and asked them, just like karen said, see what you can do, what you are thinking about what it means to be an american and what your role is in making this a better world any better democracy to fulfill the declaration of independence. think hammer can show us a little bit about how we can do that. do not be afraid to interrogate yourself and look at the world around you, thank
you. >> thank you so much for this amazing conversation. and karen hill, to the audience i do hope you are inspired and i do hope you will take the time to get to know fannie lou hammer, researcher, read about her, live with her, walk with her. it will really be a transformative experience for you. so thank you very much and thank you to the center for having us. >> thank you to all of