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Françoise N. Hamlin

beautician and civil rights activist, was born Vera Mae Berry in Leflore County, near Glendora, Mississippi, the home of her maternal great grandmother. She was the daughter of Wilder Berry, a barber and tailor, and Lucy Wright Berry. Her father walked away from his livelihood and his young family, leaving her mother to raise Vera and her brother, W. C., in Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County.

Lucy Berry's influence left its mark on her daughter. With only an eighth-grade education, she raised livestock and a garden while also working in the fields and as a domestic, so her children never felt the hunger of poverty, unlike the sharecroppers around them in the Delta. As an adult, Vera Pigee remembered her mother's resistance to white racism, a tenacious and dangerous stance in the Mississippi Delta during the years of Jim Crow Her good work and diligence made her a ...