Tougaloo, MS, January 19, 2018 – The historic Tougaloo College is proud to announce support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) for a new documentary that will explore the life and legacy of Mississippi native and civil rights icon, Fannie Lou Hamer. The film, entitled “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America”, will be produced by award-winning journalist and Hamer’s niece, Monica Land. In addition to the film, a corresponding K-12 civil rights curriculum is being partially funded through the $272,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation.
“The Kellogg Foundation is proud to support this film project and the vital ‘Find Your Voice’ curriculum. People of all ages can learn so much from Mrs. Hamer’s life,” said Jed Oppenheim, a Mississippi-based program officer from the Kellogg Foundation. “We are hopeful that by sharing her voice and story with students and families in Sunflower County and beyond, that others will be inspired to know our shared history and continue to advance the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others who fought for a stronger, more equitable country.”
The film’s producers chose Tougaloo as a fiscal sponsor for the grant because of its rich history and commitment to social justice. Tougaloo served as a safe-haven for many civil rights activists, like the demonstrators and Freedom Riders of the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement. Among those who found solace behind Tougaloo’s gates was Hamer, who became a frequent lecturer at the college during this time. Her legacy and commitment to the college was cemented when she received an honorary degree from the institution in 1969. Tougaloo is also home to the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and hosts an annual conference in their honor.
Tougaloo President, Beverly Wade Hogan, expressed the importance of recounting civil rights history and engaging future generations. “At Tougaloo, we are committed to continuing the legacy and tradition of social justice in the 21st century. Tougaloo’s involvement in the civil rights movement is a vital part of Mississippi history, and this film will enable us to further document our leading role as a change agent in the struggle for freedom and equality through the work and life of Fannie Lou Hamer. And most importantly, it will perpetuate one of Tougaloo’s founding principles, which is to educate students and prepare them to be, not only trailblazers in their respective fields, but to also develop a sense of social responsibility in a global context.”
Known for her powerful speeches, soul-stirring songs and impassioned pleas for equal rights, Mississippi sharecropper-turned-civil-rights-activist, Fannie Lou Hamer became a symbol of the largest grassroots movement for social justice in American history. Following her powerful testimony before the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in 1964, Hamer became one of the most sought-after speakers of the civil rights movement. She helped change voting laws and spoke for the unrepresented by forming the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (M.F.D.P.) Though she was primarily known for her 1960s activism, Hamer was also a humanitarian, providing housing, educational programs and food for the downtrodden in the Mississippi Delta. After a vicious jailhouse beating years earlier, and the stresses of hypertension and breast cancer, Hamer died in March 1977, at the age of 59.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, currently in pre-production, allows Hamer to tell her own story – in her own words – by means of personal letters, as well as audio and video footage recorded during her 15-year career as a human rights activist. The educational curriculum, Find Your Voice, designed to accompany the film, will be global in scope, but will be developed in Hamer’s native Sunflower County, Mississippi. The curriculum will include an interactive, multimodal website and a young filmmaker’s workshop that will teach local high school students the art of digital storytelling.
Fannie Lou Hamer authors and scholars, Drs. Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis Houck, are designing the civil rights curriculum to be an ongoing program involving teacher-student-related projects with an additional focus on youth empowerment and community engagement in the underprivileged Mississippi Delta.
“Students, educators, and artists across the country regularly contact us asking for materials to further their study of Mrs. Hamer,” Brooks said. “Beyond providing a more detailed, complex, and compelling portrait of the civil rights icon, the Fannie Lou Hamer’s America documentary and the related Find Your Voice curriculum will encourage students to discover the injustices that surround them and enable them to develop tools of advocacy to challenge these injustices.”
Award-winning filmmaker and civil rights historian Keith Beauchamp, whose documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till (2005) prompted the U.S. Dept. of Justice to reopen the teen’s horrific murder case resulting in the exhumation of Till’s body, is the executive producer of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America; and Joseph Davenport, whose film, M.F.D.P. detailed Hamer’s formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, is the director and editor.
“Mississippi is consistently on the bottom of the metric scale in so many different areas,” said Land, who developed the concept for the film. “And the Kellogg Foundation has worked for years to ensure the educational and fundamental well-being of children in poverty-stricken and educationally starved regions there. So, we are tremendously grateful to them for seeing our vision for this film and curriculum as clearly as we did. As well as Tougaloo College, where Aunt Fannie Lou maintained a strong presence.”
For more information log onto www.fannielouhamerdocumentary.com, Facebook: Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and Twitter: @flhamerica.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.
Tougaloo College is a private, historically black, liberal arts institution, accessible to all persons regardless of race, ethnic origin, religion or creed. A globally recognized institution, Tougaloo’s distinctive strengths are academic excellence and social commitment. Founded in 1869 by the American Missionary Association, Tougaloo College was chartered on the principles that it “be accessible to all irrespective of their religious tenets, and conducted on the most liberal principles for the benefit of our citizens in general.”