The Big Six, Other Civil Rights Leaders

FANNIE LOU HAMER — (Born Oct. 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Miss.; died March 15, 1977.) The daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers, Hamer was born into a life of poverty. Although she received little formal education, she became one of the most dynamic speakers of the civil rights movement. She is widely known for the phrase "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." Hamer became active in the movement when members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came to Mississippi. She worked on voter registration drives in the South. She was among several workers stopped by officials in Winona, Miss., on June 9, 1963. She and other workers were jailed and beaten. SNCC lawyers bailed her and the others out and filed suit against the Winona police. All the whites who were charged were found not guilty. She continued to work on grass-roots anti-poverty, civil rights, and women's rights projects into the 1970s.

*JOHN LEWIS — (Born Feb. 21, 1940, near Troy, Ala.) He grew up on his family's farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Ala. In 1961, he volunteered with the Freedom Riders, challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis was among the many Riders who were beaten severely by segregationist mobs. From 1963 to 1966, Lewis chaired SNCC, which he helped form. Lewis, just 23 years old at the time, was a planner and keynote speaker at the Aug. 28, 1963, "March on Washington." In 1964, he coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the "Mississippi Freedom Summer." On March 7, 1965, Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Willams led more than 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. State troopers attacked the marchers in a confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." That march and a subsequent one between Selma and Montgomery, Ala., led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Elected to Congress in November 1986, Lewis represents Georgia's 5th Congressional District and is currently serving his ninth term.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON — (Born June 13, 1937, in Washington, D.C.) Became active in civil rights movement while attending Antioch College in Ohio. While a student a Yale Law School, she became active in the SNCC's work in Mississippi in 1963. She was one of the chief organizers of the 1963 March on Washington. Norton was appointed to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, becoming the first woman to hold the post. She is now in her seventh term as the congresswoman for the District of Columbia.

ROSA PARKS — (Born Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Ala.) Many historians mark the beginning of the modern civil rights movement to Dec. 1, 1955 — the day Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. She was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance. Park's action led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, headed by Martin Luther King Jr. The association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. The boycott lasted 382 days and gave new prominence to Parks, King, and the civil rights cause. The Supreme Court in 1956 struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.

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