Money, Politics, and Saving Our Democracy Banner

Sections
Home » Issues » Stand Up to Corporate Power » Americans Who Tell the Truth :: Ella Baker

Get a FREE Issue. Yes! I want to try YES! Magazine

Nonprofit. Independent. Subscriber-supported. DONATE. How you can support our work.

YES! by Email
Join over 78,000 others already signed up for FREE YES! news.
[SAMPLE]

Town Hall Sidebar

The YES! ChicoBag(R). Full-size tote that fits in your pocket!

 

Americans Who Tell the Truth :: Ella Baker

Logo
spacer
Edward Abbey thumbnail picspacerMuhammad Ali thumbnail picspacerSusan B. Anthony thumbnail pic
AbbeyspacerAlispacerAnthony
spacer
Ella Baker thumbnail picspacerJames Baldwin thumbnail picspacerDavid Barsamian thumbnail pic
BakerspacerBaldwinspacerBarsamian
spacer
Medea Benjamin thumbnail picspacerWendell Berry thumbnail picspacerGrace Lee Boggs thumbnail pic
BenjaminspacerBerryspacerBoggs
spacer
Judy Bonds thumbnail picspacerFather Roy Bourgeois thumbnail picspacerBetty Burkes thumbnail pic
BondsspacerBourgeoisspacerBurkes
spacer
Smedley Butler thumbnail picspacerRachel Carson thumbnail picspacerMajora Carter thumbnail pic
ButlerspacerCarsonspacerCarter
Cesar Chavez thumbnail picspacerShirley Chisholm thumbnail picspacerNoam Chomsky thumbnail pic
ChavezspacerChisholmspacerChomsky
spacer
William Sloane Coffin thumbnail picspacerRachel Corrie thumbnail picspacerOssie Davis thumbnail pic
CoffinspacerCorriespacerDavis
spacer
Eugene Debs thumbnail picspacerFrederick Douglass thumbnail picspacerW.E.B. DuBois thumbnail pic
DebsspacerDouglassspacerDuBois
spacer
Marian Wright Edelman thumbnail picspacerDwight Eisenhower thumbnail picspacerRalph Ellison thumbnail pic
EdelmanspacerEisenhowerspacerEllison
spacer
Paul Farmer thumbnail picspacerRoss Gelbspan thumbnail picspacerStan Goff thumbnail pic
FarmerspacerGelbspanspacerGoff
spacer
Emma Goldman thumbnail picspacerAmy Goodman thumbnail picspacerGranny D (Doris Haddock) thumbnail pic
GoldmanspacerGoodmanspacerGranny D
spacer
Richard Grossman thumbnail picspacerWoody Guthrie thumbnail picspacerFannie Lou Hamer thumbnail pic
GrossmanspacerGuthriespacerHamer
spacer
Harry Hay thumbnail picspacerJim Hightower thumbnail picspacerLangston Hughes thumbnail pic
HayspacerHightowerspacerHughes
spacer
Pat Humphries thumbnail picspacerZora Neale Hurston thumbnail picspacerMolly Ivins thumbnail pic
HumphriesspacerHurstonspacerIvins
spacer
Derrick Jensen thumbnail picspacerMother Jones thumbnail picspacerVan Jones thumbnail pic
JensenspacerJonesspacerJones
spacer
Helen Keller thumbnail picspacerKathy Kelly thumbnail picspacerMarjorie Kelly thumbnail pic
KellerspacerKellyspacerKelly
spacer
Robert F. Kennedy thumbnail picspacerMartin Luther King thumbnail picspacerJonathan Kozol thumbnail pic
KennedyspacerKingspacerKozol
spacer
Dennis Kucinich thumbnail picspacerWinona LaDuke thumbnail picspacerDorothea Lange thumbnail pic
KucinichspacerLaDukespacerLange
spacer
Frances Moore Lappe thumbnail picspacerAbraham Lincoln thumbnail picspacerJoanne Macy thumbnail pic
LappéspacerLincolnspacerMacy
spacer
Perry Mann thumbnail picspacerNatasha Mayers thumbnail picspacerBill McKibben thumbnail pic
MannspacerMayersspacerMcKibben
spacer
Cynthia McKinney thumbnail picspacerArthur Miller thumbnail picspacerBill Moyers thumbnail pic
McKinneyspacerMillerspacerMoyers
spacer
spacer
John Muir thumbnail picspacerCarlos Munoz Jnr. thumbnail picspacerRalph Nader thumbnail pic
MuirspacerMunozspacerNader
spacer
Scott Nearing thumbnail picspacerRosa Parks thumbnail picspacerUtah Phillips thumbnail pic
NearingspacerParksspacerPhillips
spacer
Jeanette Rankin thumbnail picspacerPaul Robeson thumbnail picspacerEleanor Roosevelt thumbnail pic
RankinspacerRobesonspacerRoosevelt
spacer
David Rovics thumbnail picspacerPete Seeger thumbnail picspacerCindy Sheehan thumbnail pic
RovicsspacerSeegerspacerSheehan
spacer
Lateefah Simon thumbnail picspacerSamantha Smith thumbnail picspacerElizabeth Cady Stanton thumbnail pic
SimonspacerSmithspacerStanton
spacer
Emma Tenayuca thumbnail picspacerStuds Terkel thumbnail picspacerHelen Thomas thumbnail pic
TenayucaspacerTerkelspacerThomas
spacer
Hugh Thompson thumbnail picspacerHenry David Thoreau thumbnail picspacerSojourner Truth thumbnail pic
ThompsonspacerThoreauspacerTruth
spacer
Harriet Tubman thumbnail picspacerMark Twain thumbnail picspacerAlice Waters thumbnail pic
TubmanspacerTwainspacerWaters
spacer
Ida B. Wells thumbnail picspacerPaul Wellstone thumbnail picspacerWalt Whitman thumbnail pic
WellsspacerWellstonespacerWhitman
spacer
Judy Wicks thumbnail picspacerJody Williams thumbnail picspacerTerry Tempest Williams thumbnail pic
WicksspacerWilliamsspacerWilliams
spacer
Diane Wilson thumbnail picspacerTilly Woodward thumbnail picspacerAnn Wright thumbnail pic
WilsonspacerWoodwardspacerWright
spacer
Malcolm X thumbnail picspacerChief Joseph Hinmton Yalektit thumbnail picspacerLily Yeh thumbnail pic
Malcolm XspacerYalektitspacerYeh
spacer
Howard Zinn thumbnail picspacer
Zinnspacer
spacer
spacer
Robert Shetterly's portrait of Ella Baker
spacer
“In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you can change that system. That is easier said than done.”
spacer
Ella Baker
spacer
4 of 100
spacer

Activist, Civil Rights Organizer (1903–1986)

The granddaughter of a slave who was beaten for refusing to marry a man her master chose for her, Ella Baker spent her life working behind the scenes to organize the Civil Rights Movement. If she could have changed anything about the movement, it might have been to persuade the men leading it that they, too, should do more work behind the scenes. Baker was a staunch believer in helping ordinary people to work together and lead themselves, and she objected to centralized authority. In her worldview, “strong people don't need strong leaders.”

After graduating from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1927, Baker moved to Harlem and began her long career of organizing, helping to establish consumer cooperatives during the Depression. She joined the NAACP's staff in 1938 and spent half of each year traveling in the South to build support for local branches, which would become the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1946 she reduced her NAACP responsibilities to work on integrating New York City public schools.

Baker was one of the visionaries who created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, and she drew the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to it. She served two terms as the SCLC's acting executive director but clashed with King, feeling that he controlled too much and empowered others too little.

In 1960 four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, were refused service in a university cafeteria, setting off sympathetic sit-ins across the country, and Baker seized the day. Starting with student activists at her alma mater, she founded the nationwide Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which gave young blacks, including women and the poor, a major role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Baker returned to New York City in 1964 and worked for human rights until her death. Her words live on in “Ella's Song,” sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”

spacer
See the full set of Robert Shetterly's portraits at www.americanswhotellthetruth.org.

Tools for Teaching: see the acompanying curriculum materials with suggestions on how to use the portraits and biographies of these American truth-tellers in your classroom.
spacer
spacer
BUY THE BOOK AND GREETING CARDS FROM THE YES! STORE:
spacer
Americans Who Tell the Truth ::

Robert Shetterly's series highlights Americans past and present whose dignity, courage, and honesty have shaped this country.

This beautiful coffee-table book is an eloquent collection of portraits and stirring words of these brave citizens from all walks of life.
spacer
Card Sets ::

A special YES! selection of Greeting Cards from the series in sets of 8 (with envelopes).

Sets feature high quality prints of the portraits, complete with quotes and biographies.

Posters also available from the artist.
spacer
spacer
Donate buttonHelp support our work
Become a Dedicated Friend of YES! and we'll send you a FREE copy of Americans Who Tell the Truth and three cards with YES! heroes.
Email Signup
Stand Up to Corporate Power
Comment on this article

How to add a commentCommenting Policy

comments powered by Disqus


You won’t see any commercial ads in YES!, in print or on this website.
That means, we rely on support from our readers.

||   SUBSCRIBE    ||   GIVE A GIFT   ||   DONATE   ||
Independent. Nonprofit. Subscriber-supported.




Subscribe

Filed under:
Personal tools