Joy Elaine Davenport, director and editor of the documentary Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, will be featured at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. to present the first official screening of the film about the Mississippi civil rights icon.
“Fannie Lou Hamer’s America” goes beyond the traditional style of documentary filmmaking and uses the voice of Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer to tell her own story. It also includes previously recorded songs, testimony, public speeches, personal interviews and rare artifacts spanning 15 years.
The youngest of 20 children born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, Hamer’s life began as one of hardship. At the age of six, she was working alongside her family in the cotton fields. But she rose to become one of the notable voices of the civil rights movement.
“When I liberate myself, I liberate others,” Hamer said. “If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.”
Material for the film, which was conceived by Hamer’s great-niece, Monica Land, was compiled by Hamer’s family, along with a team of renowned historians and civil rights scholars. While the documentary traces the story of Hamer’s life, it also reflects timely issues such as injustice and poverty in the Mississippi Delta, police brutality and oppressive reactions to black voter registration.
The screening of the hour-long film will be followed by a brief conversation between Davenport and Overby fellow Curtis Wilkie, a native of the Mississippi Delta. Wilkie covered the civil rights movement as a young reporter in the 1960s and knew Hamer.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Overby Center Auditorium at 555 Grove Loop on the University of Mississippi campus. A reception will follow the program. Parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the auditorium.
Courtesy of the Overby Center