“Is It Too Late?” 1971 Speech of Fannie Lou Hamer
In honor of Black History Month, we offer a speech by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977).
Fannie Lou Hamer was a leading civil rights activist in the 1960s and 1970s. Among her many accomplishments was co-founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the right of the all-white segregationist Democratic Party to be seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. She also co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971
Speech archived in the Lillian P. Benbow Room of Special Collections, L. Zenobia Coleman Library, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi
Is It Too Late?
I am here tonight to express my views and to attempt to deal with the question and topic of, “Is it too late?”
First, as a black woman, 54 years of age, a mother and a wife, I know some of the suffering and the pain mothers must feel for their children when they have to face a cruel world both at home and abroad. In the streets of America, my home and land where my fathers died, I have taken a stand for human rights and civil rights not just for my sake but for all mankind.
I was born and raised in a segregated society, beaten for trying to act like all people should have a right to act. Denied access to the ballot until I was 50 years old, but things are a little better now.
God is in the plan; He has sounded the trumpet and have called the march to order. God is on the throne today. He is keeping watch on this nation and marking time.
It’s not too late. There is still time for America to change. God have delayed destruction on this nation to test the hearts and consciousness of us all. Believe me, there is still time.
The war in Vietnam must be ended so our men and boys can come home—so mothers can stop crying, wives can feel secure, and children can learn strength . . .
The methods used to take human life, such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc., amount to genocide. I believe that legal abortion is legal murder and the use of pills and rings to prevent God’s will is a great sin.
As I take inventory of the past ten years, I see the many tragedies of this nation: Medgar Evers’ death in my state [Mississippi], John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and more recently Jo Etha Collier in Drew Mississippi, and countless of thousands in Vietnam and the streets of our larger cities and towns. For these sins this country should pray. Because we have been spared a little longer. Miles of paper and film cannot record the many injustices this nation has been guilty of. But there is still time.
Maybe if all the ministers in this nation, black and white, would stand up tonight and say, “Come earth’s people, it is not too late, God have given us time!” Perhaps we can speed up the day when all men can feel as I do. I am not afraid tonight. Freedom is in my soul and love is in my heart.
While here tonight I have a special message to my black brothers and sisters. As we move forward in our quest for progress and success, we must not be guilty of misleading our people. We must not allow our eagerness to participate lead us to accept second class citizenship, and inferior positions in the name of integration. Too many have given their lives to end this evil. . . .
The front of our card on Fannie Lou Hamer; see our full collection of cards.
Also from her life story:
“One day in 1961, Hamer entered the hospital to have ‘a knot on my stomach’—probably a benign uterine fibroid tumor—removed. She then returned to her family’s shack on the plantation to recuperate. But in the big house, ominous tidings circulated. The owner’s wife, Vera Alicia Marlow, was cousin of the surgeon who had treated Hamer. Marlow gossiped to the cook that Hamer had lost more than a tumor while unconscious—the surgeon removed her uterus, rendering Hamer sterile. The cook repeated the news to others, including a woman who happened to be Hamer’s cousin, and thus Hamer was one of the last people on the plantation to learn that she would never have a family of her own.
‘I went to the doctor who did that to me and I asked him, ‘Why? Why had he done that to me?’ He didn’t have to say nothing—and he didn’t. If he was going to give me that sort of operation then he should have told me. I would have loved to have children.’ But a lawsuit was out of the question, Hamer recalled. ‘At that time? Me? Getting a white lawyer against a white doctor? I would have been taking my hands and screwing tacks into my casket.’ ”
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
by Harriet A. Washington. New York: Doubleday, 2007, pp. 189-190
A previous post for Black History Month had multiple voices:
See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.