Black History Month
Ms. Baker played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of the time, including the NAACP, Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Ella Jo Baker was born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia. Growing up in North Carolina, she developed a sense for social justice early on, due in part to her grandmother’s stories about life under slavery.
As a slave, her grandmother had been whipped for refusing to marry a man chosen for her by the slave owner. Her grandmother’s pride and resilience in the face of racism and injustice continued to inspire Ms. Baker throughout her life.
Baker studied at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a student she challenged school policies that she thought were unfair. After graduating in 1927 as class valedictorian, she moved to New York City and began joining social activist organizations.
In 1930, she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League, whose purpose was to develop black economic power through collective planning. She also involved herself with several women’s organizations. She was committed to economic justice for all people and once said, “People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job.”
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