Mary McLeod Bethune’s contributions to African-Americans are numerous. On this day in 1935, she used her power and influence to create the National Council of Negro Women to empower Black women and their communities. Today, the NCNW continues the mission that the great civil rights leader and educator began long ago.
Bethune, the child of slave parents who rose to become a teacher, community leader and government consultant, began the NCNW while working as an Advisor of Minority Affairs to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Bethune realized that there were many other Black women who needed encouragement and a base to promote their leadership qualities.
Bethune reached out to 28 organizations at the time, galvanizing them under the NCNW banner. Bethune’s mission statement for the NCNW succinctly explained the organization’s purpose, and has been passed down through the generations.
“It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and best in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy,” wrote Bethune.
Today, the Washington, D.C. based NCNW is comprised of 39 national affiliates and over 240 sections. The organization connects over 4,000,000 women to the NCNW’s efforts. The NCNW headquarters is named after the late Dr. Dorothy L. Height, who served as the organization’s president for 40 years.
Ingrid Saunders Jones is the current chair of the NCNW.