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Ella Baker

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

An unsung hero that you didn't learn about in history class.

By: Naya Dukkipati

"You didn’t see me on television, you didn’t see new stories about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders" Ella Baker.

Ella Baker said it herself, she may not have been a household name but her influence is what makes her known as “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”. She encouraged people to work for themselves and not rely on people or policies to be enforced for change to be seen.

Her grandmother plays a vital role in her story. She told Ella stories about when she was a slave and how she was whipped for not choosing to marry a man her slave owner had selected. Her grandmother’s pride and resilience is what led her to pursuing social activism.

She co-founded the organization, In Friendship, to raise money to fight against Jim Crow laws in the deep South due to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King’s New Organization, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This is where she started to have an immense impact. Apart from influencing Martin Luther King and organizing events, her beliefs made people think in a different way.

As mentioned before, she believed in the “power of the people.” Therefore, she became a proponent for group centered leadership versus leadership centered groups, which changed how we encourage people to stand up for themselves and young people to take action to solve their problems.

Let Ella Baker’s strength influence you to stand up for yourself and not rely on the strengths of others, but build on the strength you already possess.

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