Civil Rights Pioneers
Ella Baker and Ruby Hurley
Issue Date: February 21, 2009
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: Serpentine die cut 10 ¾
Ella Baker (1903-86) was one of the architects of the civil rights movement. Mostly working behind the scenes, Baker energized, organized, as well as mobilized thousands of civil rights activists nationwide.
Baker’s “participatory democracy” idea stressed individual thought and action over blind loyalty to the philosophies of prominent leaders. Her belief that “strong people don’t need strong leaders” frequently put Baker at odds with her colleagues. Yet her achievements are a testament to her convictions. Baker was instrumental in building membership in the NAACP, establishing a network of activists who would play important roles in the civil rights movement, and organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Ruby Hurley (1909-80) established the first NAACP office in Birmingham, Alabama, the heart of the Deep South. In the summer of 1955, racial tensions in the region soared as black voter registration drives were met with the murder and lynching of African American men.
Afraid of retaliation, several witnesses were reluctant to come forward. Disguised as a sharecropper, Hurley located key eyewitnesses and persuaded them to testify in the killings of Emmett Till, Reverend George W. Lee, and Lamar Smith. The investigations became headline news, focusing national attention on the horrible acts being committed throughout the South.