By Monica Land
JACKSON – Civil rights activist, Euvester Simpson, who was just a teenager when she was jailed with Fannie Lou Hamer in Winona, Miss. in 1963, is one of five people who will be honored by The Fannie Lou Hamer Institute on April 19 at Jackson State University.
The four other humanitarian award recipients are:
Rev. John Earl Cameron of Jackson, a civil rights activist who ran for Congress in 1963; Alvin O. Chambliss, an attorney who represented Jake Ayers in the landmark lawsuit over desegregation in Mississippi’s higher education system; Jackson attorney Robert McDuff, whose work has include voting rights issues, civil rights and criminal law; and Nsombi Lambright, director of Resource Development and Communications for One Voice and former director of the Mississippi ACLU.
Simpson began her involvement in the civil rights movement as a high school student when she joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee
Simpson was an eyewitness to the racial hatred shown to blacks in the 1960s when she was jailed along with Annell Ponder, Lawrence Guyot, June Johnson, Fannie Lou Hamer and others in Winona. They were jailed for allegedly using the “white-side” of the bus terminal.
Simpson had tried to use the whites-only restroom when she was arrested, while others went inside to get something to eat.
Fannie Lou Hamer remained on the bus, but received the brunt of the “punishment” when she questioned local officials as to why her friends were being arrested.
All of the group were arrested and beaten – including Simpson.
After she was brutally beaten, Hamer was dragged back to her cell while her cellmate – a young Simpson – tried to keep her alive.
“I sat up all night with her applying cold towels and things to her face and hands trying to get her fever down and to help some of the pain go away,” Simpson once said. “And the only thing that got us through that was that … we sang. We sang all night. I mean songs got us through so many things, and without that music I think many of us would have just lost our minds or lost our way completely.”
Hamer died on March 14, 1977.
An Itta Bena native currently living in Jackson, Simpson remains an advocate of civil rights and community activism in the Mississippi Delta and is an active member of the Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.