The Ella Baker Summer Internship Program is part of CCR’s Social Justice Institute (SJI), an innovative training institute for social justice law students and lawyers created in partnership with the Bertha Foundation. Along with the Ella Baker Program, the SJI supports existing and aspiring social justice lawyers through a range of programs including: post-graduate fellowships, fall/spring internships and externships, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses, regional conferences and national training institutes.
CCR created the Ella Baker Summer Internship Program in 1987 to honor the legacy of Ella Baker, a hero of the civil rights movement, and to train the next generation of social justice lawyers. The program uses a combination of theory and practice to train talented and committed law students on how to work alongside social movements, community organizations, and impacted individuals. Through our program, interns gain practical litigation experience and sharpen their theoretical understanding of the relationship between social change, organizing and lawyering.
The Ella Baker Program is sponsored by the Bertha Foundation which hosts law students and emerging lawyers at legal organizations across the world. As a result, Ella Baker Interns are connected to a global community of social justice law students and lawyers through the Bertha Legal Network.
Interns work under the direct supervision of attorneys and are given high-quality assignments and periodic feedback. Interns also participate in weekly educational seminars. Topics range from litigation skills, theories of social change, and guest lectures by noted local organizers & activists. Interns’ responsibilities may include: legal research & writing for domestic and international litigation, factual investigation, client & witness interviews, policy/legislative research, and participation in client and community meetings. In addition, students are provided opportunities to attend court proceedings, community and client meetings, view films about social justice issues, and attend other law related panels and events.
Ella Baker devoted her adult life to social change. During the Depression she organized consumer cooperatives and wrote, taught, and lectured on consumer affairs for the Federal Works Progress Administration. In the 1940’s she traveled throughout the South, often alone in dangerous segregated areas, organizing chapters of the NAACP. She was an early executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ella Baker strongly believed that community members and young people could make significant changes in their lives. She said, "My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders." She seldom appeared on television or in the news stories, explaining that, "The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come." Many consider her greatest influence to be with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As an advisor to SNCC members who were generations younger, she rarely intervened, although her advice was often sought. She said, "Most of the youngsters had been trained to believe in or to follow adults if they could. I felt they ought to have a chance to learn to think things through and to make decisions."
The Center for Constitutional Rights is proud to honor her life and memory with the Ella Baker Summer Internship Program. It is our hope that many young people will be inspired to follow in her footsteps.
Students in the Ella Baker program are hosted at four sites. Each site offers students the opportunity to work at a legal organization where collaboration with social movements and community organizations is emphasized. CCR has stitched these sites together in a single program to expose students to the unique opportunities and challenges of social justice lawyering in different cities, institutions with unique and varying political histories and contexts. In 2014, students will be placed at one of the following sites:
1) New York City, NY
Ella Baker interns in New York work at the main offices of the Center for Constitutional Rights and are supervised by CCR’s attorneys. Students gain experience working on cases in CCR’s three docket areas: Government Misconduct/Racial Justice, Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative and International Human Rights. Students conduct legal research and writing, factual investigation, background research and legislative/policy advocacy. In the past, students have worked on cases involving solitary confinement, discriminatory policing practices, social and economic rights, immigrants’ rights, U.S. detention and targeted killing practices, universal jurisdiction over international human rights abuses, gender and LGBTI justice domestically and internationally. Students also have the opportunity to work with CCR’s Education and Outreach Department on various advocacy campaigns. Students at this site experience the unique opportunities and challenges of doing social justice lawyering at a national organization. (Number of Interns: 12-15)
2) New Orleans, Louisiana
Ella Baker interns in New Orleans work at the Community Justice Clinic at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and are supervised by clinical faculty. Interns in New Orleans work on justice issues in the U.S. south and particularly on litigation and advocacy projects in New Orleans. Students learn substantive, procedural and practical advocacy skills in order to assist community members with post-disaster housing and government accountability issues. Particular emphasis is placed on social justice issues in the context of community revitalization and the unique opportunities the New Orleans rebuilding presents. Interns research substantive law, draft pleadings, participate in community education and outreach, and advocate informally, administratively, and through carefully targeted state and federal litigation. In the past, interns have worked on local campaigns to: challenge police abuse and misconduct, displacement from rental and public housing, and a range of other civil and criminal issues. Students at this site will experience the unique opportunities and challenges of using a community lawyering approach in post-Katrina New Orleans. (Number of Interns: 5-6)
3) Miami, Florida
Ella Baker Interns in Miami work at the Community Justice Project (CJP) of Florida Legal Services and are supervised by CJP attorneys. CJP believes lawyers create social change by building the power of community and worker organizations directed by those most affected by social injustice. Interns in Miami will work on CJP’s varied caseload, including county, state and federal litigation, class actions, direct representation, community outreach/education, legislative advocacy, and lobbying on behalf of associations of workers/tenants and community organizations. Students’ work will relate to local campaigns to: resist anti-immigrant legislation; pass local “wage theft” ordinances; preserve low-income mobile home parks; confront “slumlords” in low-income housing; and improve working conditions for taxi-drivers. Students at this site experience the unique opportunities and challenges of utilizing a community lawyering approach at a legal services organization in one of the poorest cities in the U.S. (Number of Interns: 4-5)
4) Boston, MA
Ella Baker interns in Boston work with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and are supervised by IJDH attorneys. IJDH and its Haiti-based affiliate, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux(BAI), have over 17 years of demonstrated success enforcing Haitians’ human rights, in Haiti and abroad. IJDH works in four areas: 1) impact litigation that opens the doors of Haitian, international and U.S. courts to precedent-setting human rights cases; 2)documentation that provides public officials, human rights advocates and grassroots activists the reliable information they need to speak up for human rights in Haiti; 3) transnational grassroots advocacy that compels governments and powerful institutions in Haiti and abroad to respect Haitians’ human rights; and 4) systemic capacity building that develops a corps of Haitian human rights lawyers and advocates trained to fight for sustainable change in their country. Interns will likely work primarily on ground-breaking litigation and advocacy seeking accountability from the United Nations (UN) for introducing cholera to Haiti. This work is done in collaboration with the BAI, and interns may have an opportunity to travel to Haiti to work directly with the attorneys and apprentices at BAI. Due to the dynamic and fast-paced nature of legal work in Haiti, interns must demonstrate language proficiency in French or Kreyol; however, students with proficiency in both languages are preferred. (Number of Interns: 2-3)
The internship will begin on June 2, 2014 and end on August 8, 2014. Interns are expected to work 40 hours per week for a minimum of ten weeks. All students will be asked to attend an Orientation on June 2-3 and a Final Debrief on August 7-8. The location for the orientation/debrief are TBD.
First year or second year law student
Excellent legal research and oral/written communication skills
Experience and/or a demonstrated commitment to social justice, organizing and/or social movements
Familiarity with issues surrounding of racial justice, gender justice, civil rights, international human rights, national security law
Site specific requirements
Miami - Proficiency in Spanish a plus
Haiti - Fluency in either Kreyol or French required (both are preferred)
Because we have limited resources, CCR strongly advises applicants to make every effort to secure their own funding. Possible sources of funding include: your law school; your local Bar Foundation; Equal Justice America, etc. CCR may be able to provide funding only for those who have demonstrated that they have been diligent in seeking alternate funds but have been unsuccessful.
For More Information
If you have specific questions about the Ella Baker Program, please contact:
Mr. An-Tuan Williams
Center for Constitutional Rights
Social Justice Institute Associate
For more general information about CCR and our partners, please visit: