Politics and Government

Women and the Political Process

Why have some black women been involved in third-party politics?

After Chicago empowered women to vote in 1913 and black women began to endorse candidates, they sought the best candidate and never hesitated to support a third-party candidate. Years later, Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper who became field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, became involved with third-party politics. In 1964 she was instrumental in the development of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and worked tirelessly in the plight of the disenfranchised black voter and black women in political action. The MFDP’s mission was to serve the political interest of the African-American community in that state. The MFDP was an alternative to the all-white Democratic Party. The MFDP also sought to be seated at the Democratic Presidential Convention in Atlantic City, and to be seated in place of the all-white Democratic delegates who supposedly represented Mississippi. Instead, the Democratic Party stated that two members of the MFDP could serve in place of the elected white delegates. This offer was rejected, and the MFDP challenged the appointments of five of Mississippi’s U.S. congressmen. They claimed that those elected officially had not been elected fairly, since black citizens had not been allowed to register and vote. In 1964 Harner, representing the MFDP, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress.

Sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer was instrumental in founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.


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