The entire Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s may not have succeeded without the work of Ella Josephine Baker. Yet she is mostly obscured from our American history textbooks, stories, and memory. It’s time to honor her incredible contributions and remember Her Story.
Baker was the granddaughter of slaves, born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1903. She graduated valedictorian from Raleigh Shaw University in 1927. Ella Baker played a major role in three of the 20th century’s most influential civil rights groups; the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Baker spent nearly five decades raising the political consciousness of Americans. She worked tirelessly against lynching, job discrimination, and school segregation. She held workshops on African history and labor history. Baker built coalitions. She led local actions to create social change, she created and inspired grassroots efforts that brought black citizens together to fight for basic human rights. It was Ella Baker that framed the issues for the Civil Rights Movement. It was Ella Baker that kept the movement going.
December 13th, remember that date. That’s the day that Ella Josephine Baker was born in 1903, and the date she died in 1986. All the days in between her first breath and her last, she changed the world. She Made History. Let’s lift up her name and her legacy.