National Council of Negro Women
|Founder||Mary McLeod Bethune|
The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1935 with the mission to advance the opportunities and the quality of life for African-American women, their families, and communities. Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of NCNW, wanted to encourage the participation of Negro women in civic, political, economic and educational activities and institutions. The organization was considered as a cleaning house for the dissemination of activities concerning women but wanted to work alongside a group who supported civil rights rather than go to actual protests. Women on the council fought more towards political and economic successes of black women to uplift them in society. NCNW fulfills this mission through research, advocacy, national and community-based services and programs in the United States and Africa.
NCNW serves as a super organization that acts as a cohesive umbrella for the other African-American groups that already existed. With its 28 national affiliate organizations and its more than 200 community-based sections, NCNW has an outreach to nearly four million women, all contributing to the peaceful solutions of the problems of human welfare and rights. The national headquarters, which acts as a central source for program planning, is based in Washington, D.C., on Pennsylvania Avenue, located between the White House and the U.S. Capitol. NCNW also has two field offices.
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The NCNW was founded on December 5, 1935, by Mary McLeod Bethune, a distinguished educator, and government consultant whose parents were born into slavery. Bethune saw the need for harnessing the power and extending the leadership of African-American women through a national organization. The organization comes to after a couple of years after World War I and stems from the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which also saw a purpose in supporting black women's rights in political and economical say.
During the 1930s there were many organizations formed for the rights of African Americans, but few specifically for African-American women. Mary branched off the ideas of the NACW and began the start of the NCNW to help African-American women and their families. She felt that the programs were ineffective to the main problems that women faced every day, and wanted NCNW to have deep solid roots. In the early years of NCNW, the small volunteer staff operated out of Bethune's living room in Washington, D.C. Despite small beginnings, in 1945 when the United Nations was founded the federal government gave the NCNW, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), observer status to the international body.
The first four decades of the organization was spent fulfilling Bethune's ideas of a unified women's movement capable of addressing economic, political, and social issues affecting women and their families. The support of the NCNW was considered to be so important to the women's organizations as opposed to the amendment. The activism of Bethune and the NCNW in the area of women's rights was unusual for the time, as black female leaders were conspicuously absent from organizations fighting for female equality from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s. Part of the reason for their inactivity in this area was the racism of the white suffragists which black women had experienced during the struggle for the 19th Amendment.
Although Bethune and the NCNW were very much involved in the struggle over the Equal Rights Amendment, especially in the late 1940s, even she was careful to keep her organization on the conservative side of the issue and refused to support the amendment. In 1965 the NCNW recruited many northern women with professional backgrounds in such fields as psychology, social work, and education as well as unskilled volunteers to aid the Freedom Schools and other developing programs under the Office of Economic Opportunity which the NCNW had held to establish in Mississippi.
Mary McLeod Bethune
From 1936 to 1942, Bethune was simultaneously the president of Bethune-Cookman College (founded by her for black students in Daytona, Florida), the first president and founder of the NCNW and the special Roosevelt as Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. Her plans were to plan, initiate, and carry out the dreams of African-American women who felt unheard and mistreated.
When Bethune stepped down from the presidency of the NCNW, in November 1949 at the age of 74, her two successors, Dorothy B. Ferebee, who presided from 1949 to 1953, and Vivian C. Mason, who presided from 1953 to 1957, carried on the tradition of "black first". After 1958, under Dorothy Height's leadership, the NCNW began to move in new directions to come to terms with a number of old problems, and she works to bring the organization up to date with the times. In her first years as president, Height concentrated on achieving concrete goals: the acquisition of tax-exempt status; the erection of the Bethune Memorial Statue; the professionalization of the NCNW; and the establishment of Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Museum and National Archives for Black Women's History.
Dorothy Height served as the NCNW's fourth president from 1957 to 1997, helping women feel empowered until the day she passed away. She marched with Martin Luther King at the civil rights marches and was invited to President Obama's inauguration. President Obama also spoke at her funeral along with many other women and men who cared deeply for her. One of Height’s main concerns was with the problems many blacks faced as a result of their poverty. So, she began a campaign in Mississippi that would make better food and shelter available for those at a disadvantage by partnering with the federal government to support Black women with getting houses built for their families. The main project of this campaign was to establish a "pig bank" which would lend pigs to black families and charge interest equal to one pig per family. By 1957 the original "pig banks," of what was 55 had grown to more than 2,000 pigs. Thus, the NCNW aided many poor families in the rural South by helping them to make many practical improvements in their daily lives. This program helped many families out of poverty giving them free meals to live off of.
Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder, worked to get African-American women their own institution that contained records and history of other black women to support the uplift of women's empowerment. She used the NCNW to help create the National Archives of Negro Women's History by establishing a committee specifically to find information about different African-American women so they could feel just as educated.
National and international programs
Some of NCNW's recent programs include:
- The annual Black Family Reunion Program Celebration
- Public education and advocacy for African Americans on Supreme Court and lower court nominees
- Early childhood literacy programs to close the achievement gap
- A new initiative and publication entitled African American Women As We Age, which is intended to educate women on health and finances
- A national obesity abatement initiative
- A partnership with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop Community Learning Centers targeting traditionally underserved students
- Technical assistance to eight Youth Opportunity Centers in Washington, DC
Some of NCNW's recent international activities include:
- Maintaining consultative status at the United Nations to represent the voice of African-American women
- Partnering with national women's organizations in Benin to deliver technology, literacy, microcredit and economic empowerment programs
- Linking youth in Uganda, north Africa and the U.S. in a three-nation educational exchange.
Developing a small business incubator in Senegal
- Partnering in the implementation of a large microcredit program in Eritrea extending small business loans and training to more than 500 women.
Serving as an umbrella organization for 39 national and local advocacy groups for women of African descent both in the U.S. and abroad, the National Council of Negro Women coordinates its activities with partners in 34 states. The Council also runs four research and policy centers in its efforts to develop best practices in addressing the health, educational, and economic needs of African-American women. In 2007, NCNW's administrative costs were an estimated $4 million of the organization's group's $6 million budget for programs.
National Black Family Reunion
National Chairs of NCNW
- Mary McLeod Bethune (1935–1949)
- Dorothy Boulding Ferebee (1949–1953)
- Vivian Carter Mason (1953–1957)
- Dorothy Height (1957–1997)
- Barbara L. Shaw (2010–2012)
- Ingrid Saunders Jones (2012–2018)
- Johnnetta B. Cole (2018–present)
Executive Directors of NCNW
- Alfreda Davis
- Avis Jones-DeWeever (2010–2012)
- Janice L. Mathis (2016–present)
Uncommon Height Awards
As of 2016:
- 2016: Tom Joyner
- 2016: Cicely Tyson
- 2014: John Lewis
- 2014: Valerie Montgomery Rice
- 2011: Ingrid Saunders Jones
- 2011: Steve Perry
- 2011: Earl W. Stafford
- 2011: Vanessa Williams
- 2009: Oprah Winfrey
- 2008: Sidney Poitier
- 2007: Dorothy I. Height
- 2006: Johnnetta B. Cole
- 2006: Ann M. Fudge
- 2006: Cathy Hughes
- 2005: Nancy Wilson
- 2004: Quincy Jones
- 2003: Bill and Camille Cosby
- 2002: Maya Angelou
- 2000: Vernon Jordan
- 1999: Marian Wright Edelman
- 1998: Dorothy I. Height
- “Maneuvering for the Movement: The World of Broker Politics in the NCNW, 1935–1963.” Strategic Sisterhood: The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle, by REBECCA TUURI, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2018, pp. 12–36. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469638928_tuuri.5.
- "Mary McLeod Bethune with a Line of Girls from the School". World Digital Library. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- Brown, Nicki (2006). Private Politics and Public Voices. Indiana University Press. pp. 155. ISBN 978-0-253-11239-2.
- Hanson, Joyce A. (2003). Mary McLeod Bethune and Black Women's Political Activism. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 978-0-8262-6404-6.[page needed]
- Mjagkij, Nina, ed. (2001). Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. p. 447.
- Plummer, Brenda Gayle (June 19, 2020). "Civil Rights Has Always Been a Global Movement: How Allies Abroad Help the Fight Against Racism at Home". Foreign Affairs. Vol. 99 no. 5. ISSN 0015-7120.
The United Nations formed at last in 1945, and the U.S. government gave the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of Negro Women ceremonial roles as observers at the founding conference, in the hope of encouraging domestic support for the new institution.
- Fitzgerald, Tracey A. The National Council of Negro Women and the Feminist Movement, 1935-1975. Georgetown University Press, 1985.
- "Dorothy Irene Height". ncnw. Retrieved 2020-11-13.
- “But If You Have a Pig in Your Backyard . . . Nobody Can Push You Around: Black Self-Help and Community Survival, 1967–1975.” Strategic Sisterhood: The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle, by REBECCA TUURI, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2018, pp. 128–148. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469638928_tuuri.11.
- "Mary McLeod Bethune". National Women's History Museum. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
- "National Council of Negro Women". Archived from the original on 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- "Honorees" Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, NCNW webpage. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
- Julie A. Gallagher. "The National Council of Negro Women, Human Rights, and the Cold War," in Laughlin, Kathleen A., and Jacqueline L. Castledine, eds, Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945–1985 (Routledge, 2011), pp. 80–98