In recent years, amid increasing white supremacist violence and a disturbing run of mass shootings, “thoughts and prayers” have been offered again and again. They may well soothe hearts and minds. But activists have also pushed back against the idea that they provide any solution.

That same idea was powerfully articulated more than half a century ago by Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist born on Oct. 6, 1917.

“You can pray until you faint, but if you don’t get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.” With characteristic aplomb, Hamer delivered these powerful words at a mass meeting in Indianola, Miss., in September 1964.

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