chapter  38
Ella Josephine Baker
Pages 10

Ella Baker came from a lower-middle-class North Carolina family. Her father, Blake Baker, had a job as a waiter on a Chesapeake steamship, which was a stable and well-paying job in those days. Her mother, Georgianna Ross Baker, was an educated and deeply religious woman who worked briefly as a teacher before her marriage, after which she devoted most of her time to Baptist missionary work and to tutoring young Ella and her two siblings, Maggie and Blake Curtis. Ella Baker often credited her family and childhood community with shaping her nascent political outlook. She was taught early on that, while her family was better off materially than some of their neighbors, this privilege carried with it, not the assumption of superiority, but the special responsibility of helping those less fortunate. Ella Baker's most vivid childhood memories were of the strong ethos of self-help and mutual cooperation which permeated her entire community. Cooperative farming practices built a strong sense of interdependency and group solidarity. In times of crisis, Ella Baker recalls her family pooling their modest resources with others to stave off hardship. Her grandfather mortgaged the family farm at least twice to buy food to feed other families in the county during hard times. The community of Littleton and adjacent Elams were bound together in a network of reciprocal obligations.