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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Ella Baker papers

Repository: New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Collection Description (Extant): The Ella Baker papers provide a snapshot of Baker's life as an activist and visionary for a variety of progressive organizations in the United States, from the 1930s through the 1980s. Documented here are the organizations and individuals that were central to Baker's network such as George Schulyer, The Young Women's Christian Association, In Friendship, A. Phillip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin. The collection, however, does not document her personal life nor does it fully capture her philosophy or political ideas.

The Personal Papers, 1927-1980, series contains very little biographical and personal information about Baker. Filed with the Personal Papers is research material collected by Baker biographer, Joanne Grant, while working on the book, "Ella Baker: Freedom Bound" (1998) and the film documentary, "Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker," which she wrote, produced and directed.

The Cooperatives and Consumer Education, 1930-1975, series contains correspondence, writings, flyers, memoranda, announcements for a variety of programs, forums and fund-raising events promoting co-operatives and consumer education, and printed material of the Cooperative League of the U.S.A, (1931-1940), the Young Negroes' Co-operative League, Harlem's Own Cooperative, where Ella Baker worked as the education and publicity officer, the National Association of Consumers, and the Works Progress Administration.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1936-1961, series is divided into two sub-series, National Office and Branches. Included in the National Office sub-series are scattered annual reports, conference programs, resolutions, minutes for board of directors' meetings, and reports from some of the departments to the board, primarily the Department of Branches, 1940s. The Branches sub-series contains scattered files for a small group of branch offices. Included are memoranda of the NAACP New York Branch education committee (1954-1957), of which Baker was chair.

The bulk of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1956-1968, series consists of correspondence (1956-1963) and memoranda (1958-1960). Included are a two page letter to New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner from Nathan H. Schwerner, the father of slain civil rights worker Michael Schwerner, after his son was murdered, and letters exchanged between Baker and Stanley D. Levison.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 1960-1976,series contains the field reports (1960-1963) that document the daily routine and the challenges faced by the NCC field workers as they attempted to do community organizing voter registration. throughout the South. There is also a copy of a speech by Carmichael in 1967 on the issue of the Vietnam War. There are memos and fund-raising appeal letters 1963-1967 from Friends of SNCC, a group of New York City based supporters. A folder on Hubert "Rap" Brown, Carmichael's successor as chairman of SNCC, contains some information about his tenure as chairman and his multi-state arrest and eventual convictions during this time.

The Other Organizations, 1930's-1980's, series is arranged in four sub-series: Civil Rights, 1950's-1970 n.d., Student Movement, 1959-1973, Politics, 1964-1977, and General, 1935-1967. This series most effectively demonstrates the expanse of Baker's activism, organizing skills and political savvy in that it contains folders for thirty plus organizations in which her involvement extended beyond membership.

The Printed Material, 1930s-1980s, series contains published and unpublished articles, monographs and manuals about various movements, causes and grassroots organizing.Organizational newspapers and newspaper clippings related to some of the many areas of Baker's work are housed here.

Date(s): 1926-1986

Existing IDs: Sc MG 630

Extent: 5.5 linear ft. (1 box)

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: See the Joanne Grant films collection at Ohio State University.

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American women civil rights workers
Baker, Ella, 1903-1986
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)




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   May 15, 2015
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