We hope you enjoy our #VRABlackHistory Series 202

From the Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance


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Ella Baker (1903-1986)

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The Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance, in honor of Black History Month, are reviving the daily special series devoted to sharing the legacies and stories of the sheroes, heroes, and events in the fight for Black suffrage. This series was created in 2017 and will add 13 NEW articles this year. In addition to these daily newsletters all February long, this series also incorporates daily social media posts; an interactive calendar; and, website blog posts to spread the word broadly.


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Reporting by Caitlyn Arnwine (formerly Caitlyn Cobb) in 2020 and updated in 2022.


Happy President’s Day! Today, February 19th, 2024, we honor Ella Baker, one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Born in Norfolk, Virginia, on 13 December 1903, Baker was raised on the same land her grandparents had worked as slaves. Baker’s childhood was marked early on by the activist spirit of her mother, a member of the local missionary association, who called on women to act as agents of social change in their communities.


[Ella Baker’s] political activism began in Harlem in the 1930s. She worked with the cooperative movement during the Great Depression; supported the campaign against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia; and opposed the racist conviction of the famed Scottsboro boys.


Baker was a field secretary and director of branches for the N.A.A.C.P. in the 1940s, and she traveled throughout the Jim Crow South, organizing against discrimination and recruiting people to the Civil Rights Movement. She worked alongside King and others in the Southern Christian Leadership Council in the 1950s and was a mentor to the young activists who founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in 1960. S.N.C.C. went on to lead the ‘Freedom Rides,’ in which participants risked life and limb to desegregate interstate transportation, and then to organize ‘Freedom Summer,’ a massive voter registration drive targeting disenfranchised black southern voters.


In addition to continuing her involvement as an advisor to SNCC, Baker served as a consultant to the Southern Conference Education Fund throughout the mid-1960s and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She returned to New York in the late 1960s and remained active in the civil rights struggle until her death in 1986.”(Ransby, B., 2020)

Click here to read more about Ella Baker

Fun Facts:

  • Gov. Roy Cooper issued a proclamation declaring April 15 as Ella Baker Day in North Carolina. Previous declarations were made by the town of Littleton, Warren and Halifax counties” (Weldon, L., 2018).

  • “‘Fundi,’ a Swhali word, was Baker’s nickname, meaning a person who passes down their craft to the next generation” (Herriot, A., 2020)

Recommended Reading:

One Person, One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and…
One Person, One Vote: the Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights shows how SNCC united with local people to build a grassroots movement for change.
Read More

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Ella Baker, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left. , None. [Between 1942 and 1946] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/94504496/


Fraser, C. G. (1986, December 17). Ella Baker, organizer for groups in Civil-Rights Movement in South. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/17/obituaries/ella-baker-organizer-for-groups-in-civil-rights-movement-in-south.html


Herriot, A. (2020, February 3). Ella Baker’s life and legacy as the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. 3WTKR (Owned by Scripps Media, Inc.). Retrieved from: https://www.wtkr.com/news/ella-bakers-life-and-legacy-as-the-backbone-of-the-civil-rights-movement


Ransby, B. (2020, January 20). Ella Baker’s legacy runs deep. Know Her Name. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/20/opinion/martin-luther-king-ella-baker.html


Stanford University Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. (N.D.). Baker, Ella Josephine. Standford University. Retrieved from: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/baker-ella-josephine


Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (2020). One Person One Vote. Duke University and The SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) Legacy Project. Retrieved from: http://onevotesncc.org/


Weldon, L. (2018, April 18). Importance of voting is topic of Ella Baker observance. The Warren Record. Retrieved from: http://www.warrenrecord.com/news/article_2f43f63a-4307-11e8-aae2-6b6cafd09c0e.html


Zinn Education Project. (2020). Dec. 13, 1903: Civil rights and human rights activist Ella Baker born. Zinn Education Project. Retrieved from: https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/ella-baker-was-born