73 Ella Baker Quotes from American Civil Rights Activist

Ella Josephine Baker was a famous American community organizer and political activist contributing to major mid-20th-century civil rights organizations.

Born in Virginia and raised in North Carolina, Baker was deeply influenced by the poverty and hardship she observed dedicating her life to radical political activism.

She helped establish the Young Negroes Cooperative League in the 1930s, aiming to provide affordable goods and services through community resource pooling.

Ella Baker

Baker played crucial roles in the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), continuously advocating for human and civil rights until her passing.

Here is a top collection of quotes from Ella Baker.

Top 10 Ella Baker Quotes


We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. ~ Ella Baker.


Strong people don’t need strong leaders. ~ Ella Baker.


How did I make a living? I haven’t. I have eked out an existence. ~ Ella Baker.


One should never shut himself completely but be social too. ~ Ella Baker.


My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders. ~ Ella Baker.


I didn’t break the rules, but I challenged the rules. ~ Ella Baker.


Even if we can all vote, but if people are still hungry, we will not be free. ~ Ella Baker.


I use the term radical in its original meaning–getting down to and understanding the root cause. ~ Ella Baker.


I had been friendly with people who were in the Communist party and all the rest of the Left forces. ~ Ella Baker.


People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job. ~ Ella Baker.

Famous Ella Baker Quotes


Basically I believe human beings want to live in a decent world. ~ Ella Baker.

I didn’t have any close relationship with him because, although DuBois may not have been as egocentric – I don’t know – he certainly was not the easiest person to approach. ~ Ella Baker.


With the Depression, I began to see that there were certain social forces over which the individual had very little control. ~ Ella Baker.


The three years from ’60 to ’63, out of my fifty-odd years, seems to me to be the best years of my life. ~ Ella Baker.

As the young people moved out into the community and finally were able to be accepted, they began to discover indigenous leaders… ~ Ella Baker.


Awake youth of the land and accept this noble challenge of salvaging the strong ship of civilization by the anchors of right, justice, and love. ~ Ella Baker.

In order to see where we are going, we not only must remember where we have been, but we must understand where we have been. ~ Ella Baker.

The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use. ~ Ella Baker.


I’ve always thought first and foremost of people as individuals. ~ Ella Baker.

I came out of a family background that involved itself with people. ~ Ella Baker.

When I came out of the Depression, I came out of it with a different point of view as to what constituted success. ~ Ella Baker.

Popular Ella Baker Quotes


Well, my greatest fling has still to be flung, because as far as I’m concerned I was never working for an organization. I have always tried to work for a cause. ~ Ella Baker.

He was a product of his period, which was that of self-projection in the name of organizational interest. ~ Ella Baker.

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens. ~ Ella Baker.

We aren’t free until within us we have that deep sense of freedom from a lot of things that we don’t even mention in these meetings. ~ Ella Baker.

But one of the guiding principles has to be that we cannot lead a struggle that involves masses of people without getting the people to understand what their potentials are, what their strengths are. ~ Ella Baker.


This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real. ~ Ella Baker.

And there’s a lot of difference between the development of single individuals as leaders and the development of leadership, with leadership concepts. ~ Ella Baker.

Powerful Ella Baker Quotes

We can only create a new world out of a commonness of purpose and a decent respect for all the people who are helping to contribute to it. ~ Ella Baker.

I began boarding school at the high school level. ~ Ella Baker.

People cannot be free until they realize that peace…that peace is not the absence of war or struggle, it is the presence of justice. ~ Ella Baker.

I have always felt it was a handicap for oppressed peoples to depend so largely upon a leader… ~ Ella Baker.

I began to feel that my greatest sense of success would raise the level of masses of people, rather than the individual being accepted by the Establishment. ~ Ella Baker.

I think that Walter’s whole career is indicative of a large degree of egocentricity. ~ Ella Baker.


Everything was left to King and the group that was around him. ~ Ella Baker.

I have always thought that what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others. ~ Ella Baker.

The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. ~ Ella Baker.

Give light and people will find the way. ~ Ella Baker.

Best Ella Baker Quotes

Wherever there has been struggle, black women have been identified with that struggle. ~ Ella Baker.

Walter White was one of the best lobbyists of the period. ~ Ella Baker.

I suppose that the first organized effort that might be considered something of civil rights was the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League. ~ Ella Baker.

Oppressed people, whatever their level of formal education, have the ability to understand and interpret the world around them, to see the world for what it is, and move to transform it. ~ Ella Baker.

I don’t think you could go through the Freedom Movement without finding that the backbone of the support of the Movement were women. ~ Ella Baker.

I am a person that feels that I have to maintain some degree of personal integrity and be my own barometer of what is important and what is not. ~ Ella Baker.

Martin had come out of a highly competitive, black, middle-class background. ~ Ella Baker.

There is also the danger in our culture that because a person is called upon to give public statements and is acclaimed by the establishment, such a person gets to the point of believing that he is the movement. ~ Ella Baker.

We must also know that we are in, in the final analysis, the only group that can make you free is yourself, because we must free ourselves from all of the things that keep us back. ~ Ella Baker.

Profound Ella Baker Quotes

Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit a larger freedom that encompasses all mankind. ~ Ella Baker.

We’d go around to settlement houses and conduct classes. ~ Ella Baker.


Singing alone is not enough; we need schools and learning. ~ Ella Baker.

Nixon was the one force in Montgomery for a number of years that made any effort in the direction of challenging the power structure. ~ Ella Baker.

King was one of the two young ministers – and you know how directly oriented the community still is towards the minister as the leader. ~ Ella Baker.

I don’t think that the leadership of Montgomery was prepared to capitalize, let’s put it, on the projection that had come out of the Montgomery situation. ~ Ella Baker.

The struggle is eternal. The tribe increases. Somebody else carries on. ~ Ella Baker.

One of the things that has to be faced is the process of waiting to change the system, how much we have got to do to find out who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. ~ Ella Baker.


I’ve never credited myself with a professional life. But, basically, it has been that. ~ Ella Baker.

Even if segregation is gone, we will still need to be free; we will still have to see that everyone has a job. ~ Ella Baker.

So these were the 73 amazing quotes about Ella Baker.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Sacha Baron Cohen quotes and Bob Saget quotes.

Short Biography of Ella Baker

Ella Baker played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, working behind the scenes to shape its direction.


She co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr. and was instrumental in starting the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which organized voter registration drives and other key activities.

Educated In North Carolina, United States of America
Education Shaw University (1927)
Year Honored 1994
Full Name Ella Josephine Baker
Born December 13, 1903, Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Died December 13, 1986 (age 83 years), New York, New York, United States
Siblings Margaret Odessa Baker, Blake Curtis Baker, Prince Baker
Parents Georgianna Ross Baker, Blake Baker
Organizations National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1938–1953), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957–1960), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1960–1966)
Spouse Thomas J. Roberts (m. ?–1958)
Movement Civil rights movement

Baker began her career with the NAACP, organizing branches and raising funds and later contributed to the formation of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party to challenge racial inequalities in political representation.

Quick Facts about Ella Baker

  • Ella Baker inspired the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, focusing on empowering marginalized communities.
  • Born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia, Ella Baker moved to North Carolina after a race riot in 1910.
  • Influenced by her grandmother’s stories of slavery, Baker developed a deep sense of social justice from an early age.
  • Graduating as valedictorian from Shaw University in 1927, she then moved to New York City.
  • In the early 1930s, Baker joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League to build economic power for African-Americans.
  • She rose to national director in the YNCL, promoting African-American cooperative societies.
  • Baker was active in various causes, including protesting the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and supporting the Scottsboro defendants.
  • She married T.J. Roberts in 1938 but kept her private life discreet, reflecting a common practice among civil rights women.
  • Joining the NAACP in 1940, she traveled the South to organize local chapters and recruit members.
  • By 1943, Baker became the highest-ranking woman in the NAACP as director of branches.
  • She advocated for decentralizing NAACP’s leadership to empower local actions.
  • Baker’s respectful approach helped her recruit members across different regions.
  • In 1952, she became president of the NAACP’s New York branch, focusing on police brutality and school desegregation.
  • After a brief political run in 1953, Baker focused on civil rights, attending a pivotal conference in Atlanta in 1957.
  • She played a significant role in forming the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and its voter registration drives.
  • Baker was instrumental in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.
  • Known as the “Godmother” of SNCC, she mentored key leaders like Diane Nash and Stokely Carmichael.
  • She suggested forming two SNCC wings for direct action and voter registration, significantly impacting civil rights movements.
  • Baker was a key figure in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s formation in 1964, challenging the all-White Mississippi Democratic Party.
  • Her work with the Southern Conference Education Fund aimed to unite diverse groups for social justice.
  • Baker defended Anne Braden, an anti-racist activist labeled a communist, showcasing her commitment to social justice.
  • Returning to New York in 1967, she continued her activism, supporting campaigns like “Free Angela” for Angela Davis’s release.
  • Baker passed away in her sleep on December 13, 1986, in Manhattan, leaving behind a legacy of activism and empowerment.

Top Questions about Ella Baker

Q: Who was Ella Baker?

A: Ella Baker was an American community organizer and political activist known for her significant contributions to the civil rights movements of the mid-20th century.

Q: What challenges did Ella Baker faced in her life?

A: Ella Baker faced racial discrimination throughout her life. At the age of three, she and her family had to leave their hometown due to race riots that threatened their community.

Q: How did Ella Baker contribute to the SNCC?

A: Ella Baker played a crucial role in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) by organizing its founding conference in 1960 while she was the Executive Secretary of the SCLC.

Q: Was Ella Baker considered a hero?

A: Yes, Ella Baker was regarded as a hero in the Civil Rights Freedom Movement, known for her mentorship to leaders like Rosa Parks.

Q: What nickname was Ella Baker known by, and what does it mean?

A: Ella Baker was nicknamed “Fundi,” a Swahili term meaning a skilled person who teaches their craft to the next generation, highlighting her role as a mentor and leader.

Q: Did Ella Baker get married?

A: Yes, Ella Baker married T.J. Robinson in 1937 after a 10-year relationship that began when they were both students at Shaw University.

Q: What inspired Ella Baker to become actively involved in civil rights?

A: Ella Baker was inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, leading her to co-found In Friendship to support civil rights activism in the South, reminiscent of her days as an NAACP field organizer.

Q: What personal history of Ella Baker’s early life influenced her activism?

A: Baker was deeply influenced by her grandmother, a former slave, who shared stories of slave revolts and her resistance to an arranged marriage.

Q: What achievement did Ella Baker earn at Shaw University?

A: Ella Baker was the valedictorian of her class at Shaw University, showcasing her academic excellence early on.

Q: How did Ella Baker’s time in New York City shape her involvement in civil rights?

A: Living in NYC, Baker dived into the Harlem Renaissance culture, protested against global injustices, and championed local grassroots campaigns, marking her early steps into civil rights activism.

Q: What led to the end of Ella Baker’s marriage?

A: Ella Baker’s marriage to T.J. “Bob” Roberts ended after about 21 years, largely due to the strains of their busy lives.

Q: What roles did Ella Baker serve in the NAACP, and what was her notable achievement there?

A: Starting as a secretary, Baker quickly climbed the ranks to become the director of branches at the NAACP, making her the highest-ranked woman in the organization at the time.

Q: What was Ella Baker’s role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)?

A: At the SCLC’s inception, Baker was the first staff member hired, where she contributed as a community organizer.

Q: How did Ella Baker contribute to the formation and success of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)?

A: Baker was instrumental in forming the SNCC, guiding students from campus sit-ins to unite as a movement and launching significant initiatives like the Freedom Rides.

Q: How did Ella Baker’s philosophy on leadership differ from other civil rights leaders?

A: Baker believed in the power of the people over the need for strong individual leaders, a stance that occasionally put her at odds with figures like Martin Luther King Jr.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar