Ella Baker, perhaps the civil rights movement’s most effective organizer, learned on her family’s Halifax County farm that local people have the knowledge and the capacity to shape their own lives. This summer, the Ella Baker Interns will work in the 20-county eastern North Carolina “Black Belt” to greatly increase voter education and civic engagement in the region. As they do so, they will stitch together a human “quilt” committed to what Miss Baker and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community,” a vision of redeeming goodwill for all.
The Ella Baker Interns Program will accept and train about fifty young community organizers who will work and learn from June 1st until at least August 15th. Applications are due by May 23, 2012. Early applications are encouraged. Late applications may be considered but only if slots and funding are still available.
Ella Baker Interns will attend seminars with some of the best scholars, leaders, activists, and artists in North Carolina while they register voters, mobilize volunteers, organize events, make friends, develop skills, establish credentials, and document their own experiences.
The executive director of the Ella Baker Interns Program is Jennifer Dixon-McKnight, currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The faculty includes Dr. Timothy B. Tyson, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and a historian of the African American freedom movement in North Carolina. Questions should be directed to her at email@example.com and copied to Dr. Tyson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ella Baker Interns experience offers:
• Community organizing work to increase registration and turnout and change the course of the region’s history.
• Seminars on North Carolina history; community economic development; African American and Southern religious, cultural and political traditions.
• Long hours, hard work, new friends and personal growth.
Benefits to participants include:
• Generous stipend and allowance for food and gas.
• State-of-the-art training in electoral database technologies.
• Certificates of Achievement.
• Opportunities for letters of recommendation from our faculty.
• Chances to develop professional contacts, skills and experiences.
Requirements and financial support:
• Interns will receive a stipend of $2500.00 for those who participate from June 1st to August 15th plus gas and a modest expense allowance; those who participate until Election Day, will receive an additional $1500.00 for a total of $4000.00. (Payment will be made in installments.)
• Long hours and weekend work will be common; adapting to shifting scheduling needs will be necessary.
• Most interns will live with their own families or otherwise make their own housing arrangements. The program will attempt to help arrange housing for others, probably with families in the region.
Who is eligible:
• College (Undergraduate and Graduate) students and high school juniors and seniors anywhere.
• Young people with demonstrated potential for thoughtful leadership, hard work, cheerful persistence and a clear commitment to a better future for eastern North Carolina
Preference may be given to:
• Students from N.C. with family ties in Granville, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, Chowan, Gates, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Bertie, Washington, Martin, Lenoir, Pitt, Greene, Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, or Wayne counties.
• Students able to work until Election Day, November 5th, 2012, though we realize most interns will need to stop in mid-August.
• Students with special skills, talents and networks that may be useful to the campaign.
• Students who can provide their own transportation.
Those selected as Ella Baker Interns will become part of an enduring community that wins a brighter day in eastern North Carolina by empowering young people. We intend to celebrate the record turnout when the polls close on Election Day. But for Ella Baker Interns, the struggle is not over when the summer ends or any particular Election Day comes. We hope that you will join us to explore in a community setting what it means not just to make a living but to build a life.
How to Apply
Answer the questions below as fully as possible within the limits given. Applications should be sent to EllaBakerInterns@gmail.com and copied to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not receive confirmation within 48 hours, please re-send.
1. Please list your name, age, school, college or university where you are enrolled, your email address, telephone number, permanent home address, and whether you will have access to a car during the summer or campaign. (A car is not absolutely required. We just need to make transportation arrangements.)
2. Name and briefly describe any personal or family contacts you have in the 20-county eastern North Carolina Black Belt, not to exceed ten persons. (If you do not have any contacts in the region, please do not feel like you need to explain.)
3. Name any institutional, church, political or group affiliations in this region that you or members of your immediate family currently hold. If you or your family members hold any offices in these organizations, please indicate that.
4. List the three or four most important skills or qualities that you bring to the struggle for eastern North Carolina’s future.
5. List the three or four most important things that a new friend or co-worker should know about you.
6. Write a paragraph describing a specific individual who knows you well. Then write a paragraph about how that person would describe you. (limit of 500 words total)
7. List complete contact information of four people who have agreed to provide references for you. Only one should be a family member. At least one should be a current or recent teacher. All references should know you well; pastors, coaches, employers, teachers, or guidance counselors may be good choices.
8. Please attach a one-page resume.
Faculty Biographical Information
Jennifer Dixon-McKnight is executive director of the Ella Baker Interns program. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University and holds B.A. degrees from both institutions in addition to a M.A. degree from NCCU. She has been part of the teaching team of “The South in Black and White” a public course in Southern history and culture taught every spring through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, North Carolina Central University, UNC, Durham Technical Community College, North Carolina State University, and the Duke Divinity School for five years. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at UNC, completing a dissertation on the civil rights-based labor movement in Charleston, South Carolina.
Timothy B. Tyson is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture at Duke Divinity School, and also holds a faculty position in the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Best known for his prize-winning Blood Done Sign My Name, chosen for the UNC Summer Reading Program, Tyson serves on the executive boards of the North Carolina NAACP, the Center for Civil Rights at UNC Law School, and the Institute for Southern Studies. Tyson was Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1994 to 2004, when he came home to become the John Hope Franklin Senior Fellow at the National Humanities Center. In 2006, he founded “The South in Black and White” and continues his work with the teaching team. Along with gospel singer Mary D. Williams, Tyson has taught “Wilmington in Black and White” since 2007 at the historic Williston School.
Mary D. Williams, Adjunct Professor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and “gospel powerhouse,” is one of the great interpreters of the African American spirituals in the United States. She has been an African American history and culture educator and performer for twenty years and has traveled to more than 35 colleges and public universities, dozens of public schools and hundreds of churches. She has also appeared in two feature films and the play, “Blood Done Sign My Name” by Mike Wiley. Her scholarly presentation at the Afro-American Studies Colloquium at Luther College has evolved into her own forthcoming musical based on the life of Mahalia Jackson. Williams helped to found “The South in Black and White” since 2006 and taught it since 2006. Since 2007, she has also taught “Wilmington in Black and White” with Dr. Tyson. As Professor Craig Werner, chair of the Afro-American Studies Department, writes, “When you hear Mary D. Williams, you are hearing one of our greatest voices, but you are also hearing an historic chorus of the elders and the ancestors.”
Theo Luebke is an organizer and an educator from Durham, NC. He holds a B.A. in Biology and in Public Health from Brown University (2001) and a Masters of Divinity from Duke University (2012). He is a licensed North Carolina public school teacher, holding certifications in middle and high school science and in high school social studies. He has been part of the teaching team for “The South in Black and White” for five years. He also has 15 years of experience in community organizing, broad-based coalition work, and movement building.
Mike Wiley, acclaimed actor and playwright, has spent the last decade in educational and documentary theatre, performing for and engaging young audiences and actors across the country. He was the 2010 Lehman Brady Joint Professor at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. His eight African American history plays include “The Parchman Hour,” which premiered at Kenan Theater in Chapel Hill in the fall of 2010, toured Mississippi from March 5 to 14, 2011, and was the keynote event at the 50th Anniversary Freedom Ride Reunion in Jackson, Mississippi on May 26, 2011. “The Parchman Hour” ran to rave reviews from October 26 to November 13, 2011 at Paul Green Theater in Chapel Hill. They also include “One Noble Journey: The Life of Henry “Box” Brown and “’Dar He’: The Lynching of Emmett Till,” which was recently made into an award-winning film. He wrote and still performs, along with Mrs. Williams, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” based on the book by Dr. Tyson. Wiley has an M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina.
More About Ella Baker
On June 24, 2012, the state of North Carolina will dedicate a Historical Marker at Highway 158 and East End Avenue in Littleton, North Carolina, where Ella Baker grew up. “The most powerful person in the movements of the 1960s, was Miss Ella Baker,” recalled Stokely Carmichael, “not Martin Luther King.” Her leadership differed from that of Dr. King—she was an organizer, not an orator—but Baker stood among the decisive engines and visionaries of the freedom movement that transformed this nation. Few Americans recognize her name, but her legacy continues to shape their lives.
Programs that cultivate local leadership and empower young people and women, Baker believed, would make lasting social change. “Instead of the leader as a person who was supposed to be a magic man,” Baker said, “you could develop individuals bound together by a concept that benefited the larger number of individuals and provided an opportunity for them to grow into being responsible for carrying out a program.”
Baker, who graduated from Shaw University, became Director of Branches of the NAACP from 1943 to 1946. Under her leadership, NAACP membership grew more than 900 percent in three years, building a mass base for the movement as she stitched a quiet quilt of revolt from Virginia to Texas.
In 1957, she organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and became its first executive director. If all she had done was to build the first mass base for the NAACP in the South, or if she had merely organized the SCLC, whose campaigns immortalized Dr. King and won the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, Baker would stand among the giants of the movement.
Baker is best remembered, however, as the midwife of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, whom Dr. John Hope Franklin called “probably the most courageous and the most selfless” activists of the 1960s. As the sit-in movement spread from North Carolina across the South in 1960, Baker convened a conference at Shaw University where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was born. Through the NAACP, the SCLC, and SNCC (pronounced “Snick”), Baker became the most influential organizer and grassroots intellectual of the Southern freedom movement that captured the moral imagination of the world.