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Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965$
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Davis W. Houck and David E. Dixon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781604731071

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604731071.001.0001

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Ella Baker

Ella Baker

December 1963, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Conference, Washington, D.C.

(p.245) Ella Baker
Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

Davis W. Houck

David E. Dixon

University Press of Mississippi

Born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Littleton, North Carolina, Ella Baker was dubbed “the greatest organizer the civil rights movement ever knew.” Baker began working for the NAACP in 1941 as a field secretary and developed a reputation as an exceptional organizer of black youth. She was national director of NAACP branches from 1943 to 1946, making her the highest ranking woman in the organization. In December 1963, Baker spoke at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Conference in Washington D.C. This chapter reproduces Baker’s speech, in which she stressed the importance of cultivating leadership rather than leaders as well as focusing less on race and more on universal human dignity. To emphasize her point, Baker cited the cases of Brenda Travis and Bruce Payne, two young blacks who were victims of racism and violence in Mississippi.

Keywords:   speech, Ella Baker, civil rights movement, NAACP, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Brenda Travis, Mississippi, Bruce Payne, blacks, racism

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