Who Was Ella Baker?
Ella Baker, although less known than others, was an important civil rights leader during the 1950s and 60s.
Ella was born in Norfolk, Virginia on December 13, 1903. Her grandmother was once held in slavery. When Ella was growing up, her grandmother often talked to her about slavery and how cruel it was. She told Ella she was beaten because she refused to marry a man her enslaver had chosen for her. The things her grandmother talked about inspired Ella to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Involvement In Civil Rights Movement
Ella attended Shaw University. Shaw is an historically Black college in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ella graduated from Shaw in 1927. She was class valedictorian. After graduating Ella moved to New York City. She joined an organization called the Young Negroes Cooperative. It was an organization formed to create power in the Black community by sharing ideas and planning strategy together.
In 1940 Ella joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She helped them grow their membership and open local offices in the south.
When Dr. King became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Ella joined them and helped Black Americans register to vote.
When students in Greensboro, North Carolina began sit-ins at lunch counters to protest segregation in eating establishments, Ella returned to North Carolina to assist in that movement. She organized a meeting at Shaw University and invited student sit-in leaders to attend. Students at the meeting worked well together. They shared ideas and strategies and formed a new civil rights organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was a youth organization and Ella helped them get started.
Ella was active in civil rights her entire life. She quietly worked in the background for SNCC and other important organizations. She died in New York on her birthday on December 13, 1986.