A Legendary State Honors a Legendary Woman
I’m a Tar Heel born and bred. For the past 22 years, North Carolina has been the place that I call home. It is a place where deep-rooted history is abundant, but often overlooked with stories of slavery and freedom, literary legends and cultural traditions, educational institutions and civil rights achievements.
- Race riots exploded in Wilmington in the late 1800s.
- NC Mutual Life Insurance, the largest Black owned insurance company in the nation, was founded in Durham.
- Lawyers, educators, and surgeons studied at Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the state and founded schools like Livingstone College in Salisbury.
- Groups of students at Shaw University, NC A&T and NCCU were the frontrunners in activism throughout the 1950s and 1960s, while those like Pauli Murray fought relentlessly to attend the very schools which sought to exclude them.
- The CORE Freedom Rides swept through Monroe.
- The monumental sit-ins took place at Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro.
Ella Jo Baker, whom I was introduced to in a women’s rhetoric’s class at UNC, grew up in Littleton, North Carolina. She is often called “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement” and is a pivotal part of North Carolina’s history without a doubt. I learned about her dedication to an emerging youth movement in and studied how she organized the meeting of which SNCC emerged in Raleigh.
Under the guidance of Professor Porter in the Department of African American Studies, I learned that Miss Baker, or Fundi as she was called, was as equally devoted to the fight for human rights. She was a selfless and courageous leader who continues to inspire me today.
On June 24, 2012, my home state will dedicate a Historical Marker at Highway 158 and East End Avenue to Ella Baker in Littleton, North Carolina. For passersby, this Historical Highway Marker may serve a sign to expose them to a significant woman in the state’s history. And for natives it may entice us to learn more about Miss Baker, appreciate her contributions and take pride in our home.
North Carolina has recently made headline news, but for the wrong reasons. On may 5/8/2012 North Carolina joined other states in further disenfranchising the rights of the LGBT community by passing Amendment 1. And in recent news, I was angered to find out that the women who were subjected to involuntary sterilization have still not been compensated for the irreversible wrongs that were committed against them.
In the face of many setbacks many North Carolinians like myself see them as impermanent roadblocks in our pathway to reform. Let us use this marker to embrace our history and honor Ella Baker as a hero that must be recognized, remembered and celebrated in our continuous fight for human rights across the state and across the nation.
Zakiya Scott is a Communctions Intern with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
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