SeeHer Story airs every week on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles.

By Georgia Slater
Updated July 29, 2020
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When former sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer first learned that Black people were finally allowed to vote, she knew exactly how she wanted to spend her life — fighting for every Black American's right to have a voice.

Hamer's inspirational work as a civil rights leader and in securing black voter rights broke political barriers. That’s why SeeHer Story has chosen to look back at her extraordinary life in this week’s episode.

Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE partnered to create the second season of SeeHer Story, a weekly digital video series created to celebrate various female trailblazers from the past 100 years to today.

Born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, in 1917, Hamer was raised on a plantation as a sharecropper. At only 12, Hamer quit school to work in the fields, and later got married and settled on the same plantation where she grew up.

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At age 45, everything changed for Hamer. After attending a civil rights meeting organized at her church, she learned that Black people were allowed to register and vote — and she couldn't wait to exercise her right.

“I went down the 31st of August to try to register, and after I had gotten back home, Mr. Marlow told me that I would have to go down and withdraw my registration or leave because they wasn’t ready for that in Mississippi," Hamer explains in a video.

Hamer quickly made her decision. She was fired from the plantation and immediately began working on voter registration.

Despite facing brutal challenges while fighting in the civil rights movement, Hamer never gave up her goal of registering Black Americans to vote.

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In June 1963, Hamer was arrested in Mississippi when the group she was with was refused service at a cafe. She was then taken to jail where a state highway patrolman told two inmates to beat her, leaving her with permanent eye and kidney damage.

Nevertheless, Hamer continued to push forward. By 1964, Hamer had already helped to register 64,000 Black Americans.

"Your freedom is shackled in chains to mine. And until I am free, you are not free either," she once said in a passionate address.

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Hamer spoke on the topic at the 1968 Democratic Convention, and also joined forces with Martin Luther King, Jr. during her established career.

In 1969, Hamer founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative, a community-based rural and economic development project to support Black farmworkers in Mississippi.

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The activist worked diligently for the organization until she died at 59 years old of breast cancer in 1977.

SeeHer Story will be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition, the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric and on PeopleTV’s entertainment show, PEOPLE Now

"SeeHer Story celebrates the important contributions of bold women from the past 100 years who have changed our country forever,” said Couric in a statement. “We hope recognizing them and telling their stories will not only give them their due but will also inspire the next generation of leaders.”

She added, “Together with Meredith and PEOPLE, I’m so excited to bring back a second season of stories of women whose names you may know — and put those whose achievements are not as well-known — front and center so we can celebrate them as well.”

This story originally appeared on PEOPLE.