A major force in shaping the development of the Civil Rights Movement in America, Ella Baker was the premiere behind-the-scenes organizer, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and an inspiring force behind the creation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Baker began her long affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organizer in 1938. She was hired in 1940 and traveled widely raising money and organizing local branches. In the late 1950s she helped create SCLC to fight racism; in her role as executive director (as opposed to King’s primary spokesperson role).
As students – black and white – became involved in the movement, Baker supported the idea of a student-run organization, and encouraged young people to found SNCC. SNCC organized many successful voter registration drives and other activities. Baker was also an adviser to the creation of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party (MDFP), created to help overturn the all-white Democratic Party delegation to the party conventions.