You Are a Leader: Joanne Grant & Ella Baker

Jolie Braun, Curator of Modern Literature and Manuscripts

Nov 17, 2020

Archive black and white photo of activist Ella Baker speaking at a podium in a wooded park, surrounded by Black men, women, and children standing, sitting, and listening

In February 2020, the Wexner Center and Ohio State’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library (RBML) began discussing the possibility of a collaboration that would enable artist Tomashi Jackson to draw from one of RBML’s archival collections for Love Rollercoaster. By March 2020, Ohio State had closed its campus due to COVID-19, preventing access to RBML’s collections. Although this meant that Jackson was unable to visit Columbus for archival research on civil rights activist Ella Baker (1903-1986) and the history of voter disenfranchisement, the Wex and RBML still wanted to showcase the collection in conjunction with her Fall 2020 exhibition. 

The Joanne Grant Papers document the life and work of journalist, filmmaker, and activist Joanne Grant (1930-2005). Throughout her long career, Grant’s work focused on celebrating the accomplishments of the civil rights movement and its leaders. This is especially apparent in Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker (1981), her documentary about Baker, which is streaming on the Wex’s website through November 26.

In this video, RBML’s Curator of Modern Literature and Manuscripts, Jolie Braun, provides an introduction to the Joanne Grant Papers, which includes materials about the making of Fundi. She also discusses why Grant was inspired to make the documentary and shares highlights from the collection, including an address book of Grant’s from the early 1960s. To learn more about the Joanne Grant Papers, see RBML’s finding aid for the collection.


Jolie Braun is the Curator of Modern Literature and Manuscripts at The Ohio State University Libraries, where she oversees the modern literature and history collections and provides special collections-based instruction. Her research interests include women publishers and booksellers, zines, and self-publishing. You can email her here

Top of page: Ella Baker, image courtesy of Ohio State’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

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