People against progress would like you to think that systemic rape of women of color ended with slavery.
That is categorically untrue.
Victims/Survivors know it.
The perpetrators know it.
And, our “allies” of all shades and genders know it.
But on this first day of Black History Month I would like to honor a brave soul who fought against it with all that she had.
I’d like to honor the courage of Fannie Lou Hamer.
When she was a young girl, Fannie Lou Hamer was warned by her grandmother and mother that: In the Mississippi Delta, if not the entire South, a black woman’s body was never hers alone. (1)
Sure enough, when she went to seek medical attention about a cyst on her stomach, she was subjected to a full hysterectomy. No one saw fit to even ask her anything. Fannie Lou had certainly wanted children, but was never given the choice.
A few years later she faced another horror.
On June 9, 1963 she and other members of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee were arrested on a charge of attempted desegregation.
All of them were black. They were eating at a white’s only rest stop lunch counter as they were returning from a citizenship training school.
When they were arrested, evil greeted them at the front door of the jail. The sheriff was standing there at the entrance cursing at them and spewing racial and misogynistic slurs. He informed that he had heard all about them.
One by one, each of the women were brutally beaten and sexually assaulted. As one woman was being put through hell the other women were ear witnesses. When it was finally over.
They could see evidence of the savagery.
When they came for Fannie Lou Hamer they declared that they would make certain that she would wish that she were dead. Though Fannie Lou fought as best she knew how, once again those words of warning came true.
A black woman’s body is never hers alone.
The civil rights movement was about complete and comprehensive equality and justice. That justice included the right for a black woman’s body to be her own. That is, under any and all circumstances, WE have a right to expect to be safe from harm.
Today WE make that a priority.
On this first day of Black History Month I want to remember great women like Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a Survivor and fought for Survivors.
I honor her and I thank her.
The Complete Black History
You may have to read a little more to find these details types of details about black history. Most of us got the sanitized version in school and at home. It didn’t include details related to sexual violence.
It currently holds a 5 star rating on Amazon. It truly deserves that and more.
(1) Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Urbana, Ill., 1999), 9, 11.