Key Facts about Civil Rights Activist and Leader, Ella Baker

Ella Baker was known for her work as a civil rights activist and leader. She worked alongside many important leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Ms. Baker was influential in organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP.

Key Facts & Information

Early Life

1.      Baker was born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia but was raised in North Carolina.

2.       She showed interest in social justice at an early age due to stories of her grandmother’s life as a slave.

3.       She attended Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and challenged many unfair policies at the school. Then graduated in 1927 as the class valedictorian.

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4.       After leaving Shaw University, she moved to New York City and joined several social activist organizations.

5.       She worked as an editorial assistant for a newspaper, Negro National News.

6.       Baker also worked for the Works Progress Administration and became heavily interested in the culture of the Harlem Renaissance.

7.       Ms. Baker married her college sweetheart while in New York, but rarely discussed her private life. They divorced in 1958 after 21 years.


1.       In 1940 she began working with the NAACP as a field secretary and director of branches.

2.       She helped start the organization, In Friendship, to help civil rights organizations with financial hardships.

3.       She moved to Atlanta to work with Martin Luther King Jr. and helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Ms. Baker also ran a successful voter registration campaign

4.       Ella Baker believed the younger generation was important to the Civil Rights movement. She organized a meeting at Shaw University to help students from North Carolina A&T University. The students had started the Greensboro sit-ins in protest of being denied service at lunch counters. From that meeting, the (SNCC) Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was born.


Legacy & Honors

1.       SNCC became one of the largest human rights organizations in the country.

2.       The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights was founded in 1996 by Van Jones and Diana Frappier.

3.       Ella Baker left a great example for grass-roots organizing and behind-the-scenes work of the civil rights movement.

4.       Ms. Baker went by the nickname “Fundi,” a Swahili word for which means a person who passes down their knowledge and skills to the next generation.

Ella Baker returned to New York where she continued working as an activist. She died at 83 years old and has since been recognized as the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement.

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