While the caveman’s quest to become a guardian of his society may not be entirely realistic in a world of unforeseen challenges, it can be duly noted that history has shown us her share of guardians. One such guardian is Fannie Lou Hamer, a working-class, Black woman from the South who left a legacy in Mississippi and mobilized a region that was designed to keep folks like her in the dark.
Born in the poorest region of the nation, the Mississippi Delta, Hamer never received a high school education. Extending beyond a life of extreme poverty, Hamer grew up in an era of Jim Crow, where she was robbed of all other freedoms. Despite the forces against her, though, Hamer broke free of the shackles of resignation and complacency, vowing to secure for herself the right to vote – no matter the cost. In 1962, Hamer lost her job on a plantation for engaging in such Civil Rights efforts. After joining the SNCC and becoming fully devoted to fighting for the rights of African-Americans in the South, Hamer was brutally beaten, suffering permanent kidney damage. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Hamer founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 and organized one of the most prolific movements in Mississippi’s Civil Rights history that same year: Freedom Summer. In the summer of ’64, Hamer and other Civil Rights activists led informational sessions and carpooled to transport Black voters to the polls, registering about 1700 voters by the end of the summer. While the summer proved to be a major victory, marked by heightened levels of white resistance, Hamer did not stop there. Unable to have children of her own, Hamer devoted herself to the developing Head Start program, revolutionizing the role of the Black community in providing adequate childcare and, in turn, advancing Black education.
Hamer’s story speaks to the truth of Plato’s allegory, and it is the anomaly that dispels all doubts against the power of the uneducated. I have proven previously that the allegory is flawed and that it is almost impossible to expect, in all reality, an uneducated person to become a leader of their society – but Hamer is the exception. She escapes from the darkness of poverty and poor education, survives white resistance, and successfully spreads the light of her knowledge and her wisdom to the community that once entrapped her.