Ella Josephine Baker


Ella Baker, Ruby HurleyElla Josephine Baker began her involvement in the civil rights movement in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) as a field secretary. When she was named director of branches in 1943, she became the highest ranked female in the association. A firm advocate for individual work and merit, Baker traveled throughout the South to promote the NAACP message and created many lasting and personal relationships with various people.
After her eventual resignation from the NAACP, Baker and several Southern black ministers and activists created the South Christian Leadership Conference, with goals to emphasize nonviolence and active local churches. Baker, a highly skilled organizer, was instrumental in the Crusade for Citizenship project, a campaign for voter registration.
Baker was also known as the “Godmother of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)”. She worked with Martin Luther King to guide students and grow leaders to establish lasting systems in many communities.
The SNCC began in 1960 from a meeting organized by Baker at Shaw University in Raleigh. Baker persuaded many young adults to join in as nonviolent activists, often staging sit-ins at lunch counters, and coordinating freedom rights with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Baker ran behind the scenes and never seeked attention for her work. She opposed centralized authority and believed that “strong people don’t need strong leaders.”