History of The Hamer Institute
The Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy was founded by a coalition of friends who share a vision of the potential of education. In our experience in college classrooms, many students manifest an empty cynicism regarding American democracy, its history, and its potential for reform. We perceived that our students did not understand our national history as one of struggle and transformation. The Civil Rights Movement is a classic example of the ways in which groups of local citizens can hold America accountable to its promises. We realized that by the time we meet our students in undergraduate school, their perceptions of history and politics are fairly fixed. We knew we needed to influence students earlier in their intellectual lives; to do so meant that we must work with the teachers who instruct them.

Founded in 1997 at a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College Teachers, the Hamer Institute conducts seminars and workshops for K-12 teachers and students and more recently for community college faculty. Our programs feature the role the Civil Rights Movement has played in expanding the meaning, scope, and practice of citizenship and democracy in America. We have several comprehensive objectives for this project. The first is to work in collaboration with teachers and students to fashion a new curriculum that reflects the achievements of ordinary Americans in expanding the meaning and scope of democracy. Second, we provide teachers with innovative pedagogies, featuring primary documents and other educational resources they can utilize in the classroom. Our final goal is to develop a community of engaged learners who serve as purveyors of knowledge in future institutions and workshops, in communities throughout the nation, and in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions.

Our summer programs are designed to introduce participants to the valuable and remarkable achievements of the Civil Rights Movement and the last twenty years of scholarship on citizenship and democracy. Rather than focusing solely on national leaders, social scientists now highlight the dynamic roles played by ordinary citizens in creating our nation’s legacy of democracy. In particular, the Civil Rights Movement has demonstrated the transformative potential of grassroots participation in redefining citizenship and democracy. Most K-12 teachers, and therefore their students, have never been exposed to the history of the Civil Rights Movement, having graduated from college before institutions of higher education began to the teach this “new” history. The Hamer Institute is committed to transforming the curricula of our primary and secondary schools to highlight the role played by the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Students must learn that history is made in all places and by all kinds of people. We also strongly advocate the use of interactive teaching techniques; we maintain that the use of primary sources in teaching is essential for learning. As a result of these techniques, our participants are actively engaged in the construction of democracy while they simultaneously transform the ways they teach.


The Hamer Institute
(cut and paste address into e-mail)
The Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute
on Citizenship and Democracy
Jackson State University, Box 17081
1400 J.R. Lynch Street
Jackson, MS 39217