“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”
- MALALA YOUSAFZAI
THIS WEEK'S BOSS ASS BITCH IS
Born in 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia, Ella Baker became one of the leading figures of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s.
In 1957, Baker helped launch the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), under the presidency of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She ran its Atlanta, office and served as the organization's acting executive director; however, she also clashed with Dr. King and other male leaders of the SCLC, who allegedly were not used to receiving pushback from such a strong-willed woman, before exiting the organization in 1960.
During her time with the SCLC, Baker organized the event that led to the creation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. She offered her support and counsel to this organization of student activists.
After leaving the SCLC, Baker remained active in the SNCC for many years. She helped them form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in 1964 as an alternative to the state's Democratic Party, which held segregationist views.
The MFDP even tried to get their delegates to serve as replacements for the Mississippi delegates at the National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that same year. While they were unsuccessful in this effort, the MFDP's actions brought significant attention to their cause.
While not as well known as Dr. King, John Lewis or other famed leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Ella Baker was a powerful behind-the-scenes force that ensured the success of some of the movement's most important organizations and events.
Her life and accomplishments were chronicled in the 1981 documentary Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker. "Fundi" was her nickname, from a Swahili word that means a person who passes down a craft to the next generation.
Her name lives on through the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which aims to combat the problems of mass incarceration and strengthen communities for minorities and low-income people.
July 17, 2018