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The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) was founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune, a prominent educator, civil and women’s rights leader, and government consultant. Having served as a president of a black women’s organization during the women’s club movement, Mrs. Bethune
recognized the need to unify the coalitions under one umbrella. She envisioned NCNW flourishing as an “organization of organizations” that would coalesce and extend leadership to black women. As an entity, it would function as a clearinghouse for the activities of women. In Mrs. Bethune’s words, “…the organization would be united so that when it speaks, its power will be felt.”
Headquartered in Washington, D. C., NCNW leads, develops, and advocates for women of African descent so that they, in turn, can strengthen their support of families and communities. Focal points of
the organization include human welfare and rights through public education, community service, and advocacy.
Dr. Dorothy I. Height, a powerhouse of a woman with a passion for human rights and justice, served as president of NCNW from 1957 to 1998. She later became the chair and president emerita until her death in 2010. Under her leadership, she enriched NCNW’s community-based programs domestically and globally. Dr. Height focused on many triumphant initiatives that ranged from voter registration in Mississippi to anti-hunger programs in rural areas, from home ownership subsidy programs to the establishment of the Bethune Museum and Archives for Black Women. On an international level, in 1957 she created the only voluntary organization in Africa. Dr. Height once said, “Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goal.”
In 1966, NCNW was granted 501(c)(3) non profit status. This empowered the organization’s operation and set the stage for a permanent underpinning for the council and section structure. More than 38 national affiliated organizations have evolved and 240 community based sections support NCNW.
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