Hamer bus tour stops in Selma

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2004

Several tour buses have been making stops at the National Voting Rights Museum this summer, but one particular tour bus visit to the museum this week had an extra special meaning.

The bus carried a small group of men, women and children on their way to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in honor of the 40th anniversary of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous speech at the 1964 convention.

The “Fannie Lou Hamer Pilgrimage Bus Tour,” left Hamer’s hometown of Ruleville, Miss. on Thursday and will wind through the Black Belt and the Carolinas on its way to Boston.

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Along the way, the Pilgrimage made stops in Aliceville, Selma, White Hall, and Montgomery.

Actress and author Billie Jean Young, who has spent the past 20 years portraying Hamer in the one-woman show Fannie Lou Hamer…This Little Light, is leading the guided tour.

The group is re-creating a trip a 68-member delegation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party made to the DNC in 1964, where Hamer was invited to address the atrocities she and other blacks endured while attempting to vote.

“My good friend Unita Blackwell, who was a part of that 68-delegation, worked with me in organizing this trip,” said Young. “I asked her if they flew to the convention, and she just laughed. She told me they took a bus, so I decided that’s what we should do.”

At each of the stops, Young did performances of Hamer’s landmark speeches and tour members held community activism workshops.

Young said she will also be re-creating Hamer’s 1964 speech at the convention and the group will attended a reception paying tribute to the civil rights leader on Sunday.

“I’ve been asked to do six shows in Boston, and three performances at a theater in Harlem the week following the convention,” Young said.

Young said she met Hamer twice before the civil rights activist died, and became inspired by the work this woman had done.

“Most people are not very well chronicled about who Hamer is,” Young said. “More people need to know about Hamer and the role this woman played in the Voting Rights Movement.”

Young said she and other Pilgrimage organizers have spent the past six months planning the trip and doing fundraising efforts.

“This is a real trip and it has been a trip,” Young said. “I expect this to be life changing.”

The Pilgrimage only stayed in Selma an hour or so before moving on it’s way, but not before Young held a short presentation about Hamer’s life and everyone got a quick look around the museum.

The Boston Democratic National Convention officially begins on Monday.