You may not know her name, but you know her work and her legacy. Ella Baker was a fixture in the fight for civil rights for 50 years, playing a central role in three pivotal groups: the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
She was born in 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia, and grew up listening to her grandmother's recollections of life under slavery. After graduating college as a valedictorian, she threw herself into social justice and became the national director of the Young Negroes Cooperative League, then a field secretary and director of the NAACP.
She pushed always for grassroots organizing and participatory democracy, using a gift of listening and strategic savvy to go from town to town helping communities wage campaigns against the segregation of public spaces, lynching, and voter suppression.
Later, as a leader who helped shape SCLC and SNCC, she organized students to register black voters and challenge Jim Crow with nonviolent action. She had a talent for recognizing and training people who would go on to lead themselves, which led to her nickname: "Fundi," a Swahili word describing someone who teaches a craft to the next generation. She remained active in the civil rights movement until her death in 1986.
"This may only be a dream of mine," she once said of young people becoming leaders of the civil rights movement, "but I think it can be made real." She made it real. #blackhistory https://instagram.fphx1-3.fna.fbcdn.net/vp/f2f089a1d382101d5656f1aef2de0661/5D04DD12/t51.2885-15/e35/53248497_2327444014206513_9189577941888691491_n.jpg?_nc_ht=instagram.fphx1-3.fna.fbcdn.net