Anonymous donor seeds Fannie Lou Hamer Scholarship in African American studies

Published 1:00 pm Monday, January 31, 2022

A generous gift from an anonymous donor will provide the University of Mississippi African American studies program with an endowed scholarship that honors a Mississippi civil rights leader.

The $100,000 gift establishes the Fannie Lou Hamer Scholarship Endowment to help students who are pursuing an education in African American studies through the UM College of Liberal Arts.

“As Mississippi’s flagship university, one of our core missions is to provide opportunities to the students of this state, and scholarships are a crucial component in maintaining and exceeding that ongoing goal,” said Lee Cohen, UM liberal arts dean.

“We are truly grateful for this gift establishing a scholarship endowment in honor of the late Ms. Hamer. It will open doors for our students here at the University of Mississippi and provide for future generations for years to come, while commemorating past generations that laid the foundation for progress and change.”

Hamer, a Mississippi Delta native who co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, was instrumental in the fight for voting equality and women’s rights.

“Ms. Hamer was vital to the progression of African Americans in Mississippi and nationally, and her work really began at the grassroots level and the struggle for voting rights,” said Derrick Harriell, interim director of African American studies.

“Naming the scholarship after Ms. Hamer, the Mississippi civil rights activist giant, will provide our students with the incentive to work harder and reach for higher goals while honoring Hamer’s important legacy.”

Hamer, a renowned orator, spoke at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, giving a speech that resonated with the scholarship’s founder.

“She worked so hard for the state of Mississippi and is a folk hero,” the donor said. “I hope she continues to be an inspiration to students and that this scholarship can provide the financial support to help them achieve their goals.”

The African American studies program seeks to develop and coordinate an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on the African American experience in the United States, especially in Mississippi and the South.

The program provides students with an interdisciplinary understanding of Black history, culture, politics and society while preparing them for professional careers in relevant areas.

“We are hoping to grow our majors and our program and continue to be active on campus and in the surrounding community, in Mississippi and across the nation,” Harriell said.

“To do so requires dynamic faculty and, more importantly, dynamic students who are at the heart of what we hope to represent as a program. These scholarships will assist in this mission, and we are grateful for the support.”

The Fannie Lou Hamer Scholarship Endowment is open to support from businesses and individuals. Gifts can be made by sending a check, with the fund’s name noted on the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or by visiting give.olemiss.edu.

For more information on ways to support the African American studies program, contact Rob Jolly, managing director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, at jolly@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3085.