By Robin Martin – Ms. Ella Baker, Civil Rights Activist
Fearless fighter for civil rights, an educated woman, determined, dedicated to organizing disenfranchised Negroes in the south and north. Knowledge, ability, experience, skill, and being Black, she would organize groups to raise their consciousness, or what is now called being WOKE, to exercise freedom of speech and press, galvanize them to fight against inequality, racism, and injustice.
She was raised by her grandmother, a former slave. They eventually moved from Virginia to North Carolina, where she would eventually attend Shaw University. A Shaw University graduate and valedictorian of the historically Black College, Ella Baker, civil rights activist, became the Student for Nonviolent Change Committe (SNCC) visionary.
In the Spring of 1960, Black and Caucasian college students staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the South. Baker coordinated a conference at Shaw University to advance the movement. The outcome was the SNCC.
She helped to organize the lunch counter sit-ins college students used as protests separate from nonviolent protests by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), that created awareness of the inequality of Jim Crow laws, from voter suppression to discrimination in employment of the Negro.
She mentored youth and gave speeches to audiences on racial justice.
“Until the death of a Black mother’s son is as important as that of a White mother’s son…”
a quote that received rousing applause from the audience.
Baker worked tirelessly, speaking and writing about civil rights. In the north she worked as a journalist and secretary-treasurer for Black organizations in New York.
Baker was a tenacious civil rights activist. As an assistant field secretary for the NAACP, she galvanized Black southerners to register to vote, even with the hardcore racism, segregation, and voter suppression they endured in the south.
Skip Gates, historian, interviewed the late Congressman John Lewis and Diane Nash. Gates asked about Ella Baker’s role in the civil rights movement. Lewis remarked that she did not receive the recognition or responsibilities she deserved, since the patriarchal leadership of the NAACP was African American men, did not put women in leadership positions. The NAACP did allow her the position of assistant field secretary. A Field Secretary was a high position in the NAACP at that time.
It is said, Baker believed that the movement for voting rights, had to start at the grassroots level then work to the top. A bottom-up philosophy was more effective poised to be successful, since the people affected knew what they wanted and needed in the sixties
African American History
1863 – White mob attacks Black community after trial of William Faulkner accused of the rape of a white woman.
1948 – Bayard Rustin gives ‘Jim Crow Army’ speech to Negro men to challenge segregated military service.
1965 – Bloody Sunday civil rights demonstrators attacked by Alabama police while marching from Selma to Montgomery.
Ms. Martin is an educator, freelance writer, and 2008 Monmouth University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unsung Hero award. email@example.com