Summary | MLK | Malcolm X
Ella Baker (1903-1986)
A dynamo behind the scenes, Baker had many labels: organizer, leader and activist, as well as friend and advisor to one of the more prominent names of the decade, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Baker had a large hand in creating the organizations that helped spur the Civil Rights Movement. She and King co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Baker was also responsible for helping form the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Her remarkable career began with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where Baker worked as an organizer in 1935, traveling throughout the nation for the cause. Baker complemented King's spokesperson role in the SCLC by taking on the less public role of inside organizer and executive director. In this position, Baker helped to construct more than 65 affiliates.
Students, both black and white, became involved in the movement, which led Baker to support the idea of a student-run organization. She encouraged young people to found SNCC, which successfully put together voter registration drives.
As if this wasn't enough, Baker was an advisor to the creation of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party (MDFP), which helped to overturn the all-white Democratic party delegation to the party conventions.
Affectionately known as the Fundi, a Swahili word for a person who passes skills from one generation to another, Baker shaped the Civil Rights movement in the ultimate way: by doing it without seeking fame or recognition and truly making a difference.