National Council of Negro Women

The Dorothy I. Height Building, headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, located at 633 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
National Council of Negro Women
FounderMary McLeod Bethune

The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is a non-profit 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 was the founder of NCNW and 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.[1] 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 which 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 to the problems of human welfare and rights. The national headquarters that act 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.


The NCNW was founded on December 5th, 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune,[2] a distinguished educator, and government consultant whose parents were born into slavery. Mary McLeod 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, which also saw a purpose in supporting black women's rights in political and economical say. [3] During the 1930's there were many organizations formed for the rights of African Africans, 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.[4] In The early years of NCNW, the small volunteer staff operated out of Bethune's living room in Washington D.C..[5] 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.

Political Standpoint[]

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.

Other Founders[]

When Bethune stepped down from the presidency of the NCNW, in November 1949 at the age of seventy-four, 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”.[6] 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.[citation needed]

Dorothy Height[]

Dorothy Height served as the NCNW's second president from 1957-1997 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 Heights 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 fifty-five had grown to over 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. [7] This program helped many families out of poverty giving them free meals to live off of.

Archives Project[]

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.[citation needed]

National and international programs[]

Some of NCNW's recent programs include:

Some of NCNW's recent international activities include:

Developing a small business incubator in Senegal

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[]

NCNW organizes the National Black Family Reunion, a two-day cultural event celebrating the enduring strengths and traditional values of the African American fathers.[5]

National Chairs of NCNW[]

Executive Directors of NCNW[]

Uncommon Height Awards[]

As of 2016:[9]

See also[]


  1. ^ “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,
  2. ^ "Mary McLeod Bethune with a Line of Girls from the School". World Digital Library. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  3. ^ Brown, Nicki (2006). Private Politics and Public Voices. Indiana University Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-253-11239-2.
  4. ^ Hanson, Joyce Ann. Mary McLeod Bethune and Black Women’s Political Activism. University of Missouri, 2003. EBSCOhost,
  5. ^ a b Mjagkij, Nina, ed. (2001). Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. p. 447.
  6. ^ Fitzgerald, Tracey A. The National Council of Negro Women and the Feminist Movement, 1935-1975. Georgetown University Press, 1985.
  7. ^ “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,
  8. ^ "National Council of Negro Women". Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  9. ^ "Honorees", NCNW webpage. Retrieved 2011-08-05.

Further reading[]

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