The Women Shall Lead the Way: Fannie Lou Hamer and the National Council of Negro Women’s Comprehensive Fight to End Hunger

Authors: Priscilla McCutcheon*, University of Louisville
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: Hunger, Agriculture, Black women, Civil Rights, Black Power
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Borgne Room, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Black women’s contributions to the Civil Rights and Black Power movement are given little attention in scholarly discourse. When discussed, discourse often centers around individual Black women and not their sustained efforts to collectively effect change. This paper focuses on Fannie Lou Hamer and the National Council of Negro Women’s (NCNW) work around hunger and nutrition. While there has been little research on Hamer’s anti-poverty initiative in Freedom Farms, there is even less acknowledgement that Hamer’s work was a part of a larger national effort by the NCNW. The NCNW was founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune. Organizationally, it is comprised of other national philanthropic and social organizations of women of African descent, while simultaneously operating local NCNW chapters across the United States. Hamer was an active member of NCNW, and much of her pig bank was funded through the organization. In 1972, the NCNW hosted an “Anti-hunger convocation” where they situated addressing hunger alongside societal issues like affordable healthcare and childcare. In this presentation, I take an in-depth look at Hamer’s Freedom Farms as a part of NCNW’s larger hunger initiative. While there is little mention of their hunger work in comparison to groups like the Black Panther Party, the NCNW and Hamer are effectively leading the way in this important work. Moreover, by speaking about Hamer’s work at Freedom Farms as a singular case, we are effectively erasing the larger contributions of Black women and their organizational efforts to upend white supremacy through food and agriculture.

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