Resource

Life Story: Ella Baker (1903-1986)

Civil Rights Leader

The story of a grassroots organizer and outspoken leader in the Black civil rights movement.

Black Delegates Challenge Mississippi Democrats

George Ballis (photographer), Black Delegates Challenge Mississippi Democrats, 1964. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Suggested Activities

  • Focus on the work of SNCC by studying this life story alongside the Freedom Summer letter and Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony. How does each resource add to students’ understanding of this organization? What more can you learn about Ella from the two related primary sources?
  • Take a more in-depth look into women’s roles in the Black civil rights movement by connecting this life story to the life stories of Mamie Till-Mobley, Pauli Murray, Mary Church Terrell, and Mary McLeod Bethune as well as the resource related to the Little Rock Nine and Freedom Summer, to deepen students’ understanding of women’s roles in the Civil Rights.
  • Later in life, Ella spoke out about the arrest of Angela Davis. Read this life story in conjunction with Angela Davis’s life story. Encourage students to compare the two women’s lives and think about how the civil rights movement took many forms.
  • Study the role of grassroots organizers in the 1960s and 1970s by connecting this life story with that of fellow New York City organizer Antonia Pantoja.
  • Ella was part of the Great Migration, moving from North Carolina to New York City in the 1920s. Learn more about the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance by pairing her life story with the Great Migration photographs and Zora Neale Hurston’s life story.

Themes

AMERICAN IDENTITY AND CITIZENSHIP; ACTIVISM AND SOCIAL CHANGE

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