RALEIGH — Ella Baker grew up in Halifax County and dedicated her life to advancing civil rights for African Americans. She had a “habit of pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior for a respectable, middle-class, married woman during the 1940s,” according to biographer Barbara Ransby.
Her life’s work is being recognized with the dedication of a N.C. Highway historical marker on Sunday, June 24, at 2 p.m. at Roanoke Chapel Baptist Church, located at 1991 Roanoke Chapel Road in Littleton.
The marker will be erected the following week.
Baker moved to New York in 1930 and began work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1940 as field secretary, rising to director of branches. She was the only woman present as Martin Luther King Jr. and others planned to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
After the Feb. 1, 1960, Greensboro sit-ins, Baker organized the meeting at Shaw University in April 1960 that gave rise to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC members were the “shock troops” of the civil rights movement, and called by historian John Hope Franklin “probably the most courageous and the most selfless” of the 1960s activists.
Baker mentored John Lewis, Julian Bond, Marion Barry, and other SNCC members who became prominent. She is also called “the mother of the civil rights movement” by Duke University historian William Chafe. Baker counseled, “give light and people will find a way….The struggle is eternal.” She died in 1986 and is buried in Queens, N.Y. The Ella Baker Center in Oakland, Calif., honors her memory and legacy.
For additional information call Michael Hill at 919-807-7290. For information on the program call Florine Bell at 252-537-9843.
The N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program is part of the Office of Archives and History in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.