The Beating in the Winona Jail
I feel compelled to write this because it is the reason why I do my films.
It’s a painful and infuriating story, told over and over again. A human life is lost, carelessly tossed aside, as if it meant nothing – simply because of skin color. This is a fight for racial justice.
I look to Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer for guidance and perseverance. In honor of her legacy, and as this ugly narrative continues to plague U.S. history, I am highlighting key moments in Mrs. Hamer’s life which advanced the fight for equality – even at the risk of her own. They are moments we must never, ever forget in order to keep going.
57 years ago, June 9th, 1963 to be exact, became a historical catalyst in the Civil Rights Movement. But at the time, it was an exercise of sheer brutality at the hands of the Winona police department.
Mrs. Hamer and a group of other activists stopped at a rest station in the small town after spending several hours on the road. Returning from their training session in Charleston, South Carolina, they all simply wanted to use the rest room or merely get something to eat. Police were waiting for them.
When several of the women at the counter, the waitresses not only refused, another walked away from the counter. Immediately, the police chief came in and threw them out. An argument ensued between the several activists and the police. Ironically enough, Mrs. Hamer had stayed on the bus. It wasn’t until she had heard the yelling that she got off the bus to help her friends. One officer shouted, “Get that one there!” grabbing Mrs. Hamer and shoving her (and kicking her) into the police car. She was taken to the jail with several other activists, where they experienced inexplicable torture.
That left her scarred for life – but it also became part of her narrative that helped her become a hero in the Civil Rights Movement.
Today we are fighting for the same thing – justice, to be heard, and to be treated like a human being. May the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubry, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and so many others be remembered, as the fight goes on. This has to stop!