Feast of Ella J. Baker (December 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  A South African Apartheid Sign in English and Afrikaans

ELLA JOSEPHINE BAKER (December 13, 1906-December 13, 1986)

Witness for Civil Rights

Ella J. Baker led a life devoted to civil rights.  One blog post cannot do justice her legacy, but I hope that this one will prompt readers to read further.  So I encourage you, O reader, to read a biography of her and histories of the civil rights movement.  There are also some wonderful websites where one can learn more.  (I drew from these.)  So, for further reading, I refer you to the following:

http://www.commondreams.org/scriptfiles/views03/1213-02.htm

http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/pgs/portraits/Ella_Baker.php

http://www.ellabakercenter.org/page.php?pageid=19&contentid=9

http://www.ibiblio.org/sncc/baker.html

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/434.html

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Born in Norfolk, Virginia, at the height of Jim Crow, Ella J. Baker grew up hearing stories of slavery from her grandmother, a former slave.  These accounts made quite an impression, for Ella devoted her life to civil rights.  She graduated from Shaw University, in North Carolina, in 1927, at the top of her class.  Later, living in Harlem, she drew inspiration from the Harlem Renaissance and joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League in 1931, soon becoming its national director.

Baker worked with several notable civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), from 1938 to 1953, becoming the highest ranking woman there.  She risked her life to recruit activists all over the South.  And, in 1960, Baker became the “Godmother of SNCC,” the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which which she remained active until 1966.  She coordinated the 1961 Freedom Rides and helped to organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964.

Baker worked with many famous men in the Civil Rights Movement and made the contributions of others possible.  So, the next time you, O reader, consider the great deeds of Julian Bond; Thurgood Marshall; A. Philip Randolph; Martin Luther King, Jr.; John Lewis; or a host of  others who have made this nation a much better place for all of us, place Ella J. Baker in the pantheon.  And add her good friend and collaborator, Pauli Murray (https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/feast-of-pauli-murray-july-1/) also.

Baker spent her later years engaged in various causes, from the anti-Vietnam War movement to efforts to free Angela Davis to anti-Apartheid protests and actions.  She accomplished much; may the rest of us help build a society (wherever we are) dedicated to human equality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE LAST DAY OF ORDINARY TIME 2011

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil

and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Ella J. Baker,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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