Oral History Interview with Ella Baker, September 4, 1974. Interview G-0007. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) ~ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
BAKER: “…I think the basic “why” of S.C.L.C. has to do with what has taken place in the ’54 decision and the Montgomery bus boycott. But before you can evaluate the bus boycott, you have to understand how it came about. And it didn’t come out of a vacuum.
There were two people in Montgomery who had functioned with the N.A.A.C.P. over the years and they were Mrs. Rosa Parks and E.D.Nixon. Where did E. D. Nixon get his fire? He got his fire and his sense of social action from being a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the struggle that it had waged through the years.
So when the Montgomery bus boycott ended successfully here you had a social phenomenon that had not taken place in the history of those of us who were around at that time, where hundreds of people and even thousands of people, ordinary people, had taken a position that put them in a very uncomfortable—at least made life less comfortable for them—when they decided to walk rather than to ride the buses.
And this was a mass action and a mass action that anybody who looked at the social scene would have to appreciate and wonder.
Those of us who believed that mass and only through mass action are we going to eliminate certain things, would have to think in terms of how does this get carried on.
So, whatever the reasons, or however the historical accidents of history or whatever else that precipitated Martin as the president—that’s quite a story I’m not going into because you didn’t come here for that—but whatever those factors were, he was there as the spokesman for the boycott. And out of the boycott he became a worldwide known individual articulating the strivings and the hopes and so forth of the people who were involved in the boycott.”