Reconceptualizing Leadership through the Prism of the Modern Civil Rights Movement: A Grounded Theory Case Study on Ella Baker
Author(s)Comedy, Edna R.
Black feminist thought
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AbstractGuiding this research inquiry was a constructivist grounded theory case study—though interspersed throughout are various framing characteristics of a biographical study and oral history. Neither a biographical study nor oral history would have been an appropriate research method for achieving the purpose of this study. The purpose of this study was to reconceptualize the leadership of Ella Baker during the modern Civil Rights Movement, to develop a leadership framework in which her community and political activism naturally fits, and to place her leadership style in a broader framework of research. Using a purposeful sampling and criterion-based selection strategy, this study relied on responses of five (n=5) research participants to fifteen open-ended questions using a semi-structured interview protocol. All research participants are SNCC veterans and civil rights activists; each interacted frequently with Ella Baker. Results suggested the liberation leadership framework had the greatest potential for explaining Ella Baker’s leadership philosophy and leader-behaviors. Liberation leadership is a “process in which leaders” do not lead others but rather are “members of a community of practice, i.e. people united in a common enterprise, who share a history and thus certain values, beliefs, ways of talking, and ways of doing things” (O’Donovan, 2007, p. 30). The explanatory nature of this study narrows the gap in current social movement literature on Ella Baker’s leadership.