The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC, which is closely associated with its first president, Martin Luther King Jr, had a large role in the American Civil Rights Movement.
On January 10, 1957, following the Montgomery Bus Boycott victory and consultations with Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, and others, Martin Luther King Jr. invited about 60 black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Prior to this, Rustin, in New York City, conceived the idea of initiating such an effort and first sought C. K. Steele to make the call and take the lead role. Steele declined, but told Rustin he would be glad to work right beside him if he sought King in Montgomery, for the role. Their goal was to form an organization to coordinate and support nonviolent direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the South. In addition to King, Rustin, Baker, and Steele, Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Joseph Lowery of Mobile, and Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, all played key roles in this meeting.
On February 15, a follow-up meeting was held in New Orleans. Out of these two meetings came a new organization with King as its president. Initially called the Negro Leaders Conference on Nonviolent Integration, then Southern Negro Leaders Conference, the group eventually chose Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as its name, and expanded its focus beyond buses to ending all forms of segregation. A small office was established in the Prince Hall Masonic Temple Building on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta with Ella Baker as SCLCs first—and for a long time only—staff member.
SCLC was governed by an elected Board, and established as an organization of affiliates, most of which were either individual churches or community organizations such as the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). This organizational form differed from the National Association for the Advancement of