Ella Baker: Did You Know...

Michael Hill

Did you know that    .   .   .

  1. North Carolina was the scene of two nationally significant civil rights landmark events in 1960, the first being the Woolworth sit-ins in February in Greensboro, and the second being the organization of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in April at Shaw University?
  2. North Carolina lays claim to Ella Baker, who though born in Norfolk, moved to Littleton at age seven and went on to attend Shaw University?
  3. Ella Baker challenged the president of Shaw over issues including the dress code and how visitors were treated?
  4. Young Miss Baker “came of age” in Harlem, absorbing the output of the musical, political, and literary geniuses of the Harlem Renaissance?
  5. In 1940 Baker began work for the NAACP as a field secretary, rising by 1943 to director of branches?
  6. Ella Baker was the only woman present at the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957?
  7. The role played by Ella Baker in organizing the SNCC conference eclipses the appearance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that same weekend at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh?  (King received the headlines that weekend but history books today place the greater importance on Baker.)
  8. Historian William Chafe of Duke University has described Ella Baker as “the mother of the civil rights movement”?
  9. In 2000 veterans of SNCC gathered in Raleigh to dedicate the state marker and mark the group’s fortieth anniversary?

“Give light and people will find the way  . . . The struggle is eternal.  The tribe increase.  Somebody else carries on.” 

-- Ella Baker

Learn more about Ella Baker in a new title for young adult readers, “We Who Believe in Freedom,” published by the Historical Research Office of the N.C. Office of Archives and History. The publication is the second volume in the True Tales for Young Readers series from the Historical Research Office. Author Lea Williams is an independent scholar and former administrator at Bennett College and N.C. A&T State University, both in Greensboro.