Ella Baker, a civil rights activist, was born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia. Baker studied at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated in 1927 as class valedictorian and then moved to New York City. Baker began joining social activist organizations. In 1930, she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League. The League's purpose was to develop black economic power through collective planning. In 1940, Baker got involved with the NAACP. She worked as a field secretary and then served as director of branches. In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to organize Martin Luther King's new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She also ran a voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship. Baker stayed at SCLC for two years although she disagreed with its policy of strong central leadership over grass-roots organization, saying "strong people don't need strong leaders. She wanted to help the new student activists and organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960. From that meeting SNCC was born. Baker continued to take part in SNCC mostly as a quiet leader who listened and encouraged the young activists. Ella Baker died on December 13, 1986, in New York City.
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