Illustration of Ella Baker
Illustration of Ella Baker by Kirby Salvador.

Ella Baker (1903–1986)

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes,” goes Ella’s Song, written to honor civil and human rights activist Ella Baker. Baker had a particular vision for the movement’s growth. Influenced by theories of participatory democracy and the voices of the Harlem Renaissance, she is largely responsible for the community-based approach embraced by grassroots organizations today.

Committed to strengthening the voices of all the civil rights movement’s members, Baker also joined forces with women’s groups, anti-apartheid groups and anti-racist groups whenever possible, working to build a coalition strong and broad enough to one day encompass us all.

Text by Farrah Celler. This feature originally appeared in the Community issue. For more inspiring women, check out Grandma Moses’s story and our 5 Women section.