Our History


Our History

We are women of color, African American women, black women.

Long before the founding of the of the organization, our forbearers, had organized ourselves into self-improvement and charitable organizations. These organizations were led by women named Harriet Tubman and Helen Appo Cook (both NACW founders), Sojourner Truth, Anna Julia Cooper, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and a plethora of unnamed others whose lives were devoted to the struggle to free people of color from the bondage of slavery, illiteracy, and prejudice in an unforgiving world that treated them as less than human. It was also the time of Ida B. Wells Barnett and her Red Record, a voluminous documentation of the lynching of black Americans.

The Letter

In 1895 James W. Jacks, president of the Missouri Press Association, received a letter from Florence Balgarnie of the English Anti-Lynching League asking American journalists to help battle lynching. Jacks’ now infamous reply to her letter, attacked African Americans and specifically, black women. Jacks wrote that, “The Negroes in this country are wholly devoid of morality. They know nothing of it except as they learn by being caught for flagrant violations of law and punished therefor… They consider it no disgrace but rather an honor to be sent to prison and to wear striped clothes. The women are prostitutes and all are natural liars and thieves….Out of 200 in this vicinity it is doubtful if there are a dozen virtuous women of that number who are not daily thieving from the white people.”

The Founding of NACWC

Equivalent to the “shot heard round the world” triggering the American Revolution, the effect of James Jacks’ letter response to Florence Balgarnie’s solicitation of journalist support against lynching, catapulted black women into action.
A national “Call to Confer” sent to women’s organizations of color was issued by Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, leader of Boston’s New Era Club.

At the conference, held in 1896 in Washington, DC, Mrs. Ruffin is quoted as stating, “The reasons why we should confer are so apparent…We need to talk over not only those things which are of vital importance to us as women, but also the things that are of special interest to us as colored women, the training of our children, openings for our boys and girls, how they can be prepared for occupations and occupations may be found or opened to them, what we especially can do in the moral education of the race with which we are identified, our mental elevations and physical development, the home training it is necessary to prepare them to meet [the] peculiar [special; difficult] conditions in which they find themselves, how to make the most of our own…opportunities, these are some of our questions to be discussed.”

Mrs. Ruffin’s statement is the foundation of the NACWC Mission. The enduring spirit of the statement has emboldened and inspired clubwomen, who have for nearly 120 years, given their energy, time, talent and their finances to serving their communities.

Milestones of Progress

Incorporated July 26, 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri
Paid Mortgage on Douglas Home
Established Hallie Quinn Brown Scholarship Loan Fund 1922
Built Douglass Home Caretaker Cottage 1924
Purchased National Headquarters at 1114 0 St., N.W Washington, D.C. 1928
Established National Association of Colored Girls 1930
Purchased current National Headquarters at 1601 R Street, N,W, Washington, D.C. 1954
Paid Mortgage on National Headquarters 1962
Frederick Douglass Home Declared National Shrine by an Act of Congress 1962
Purchased National Headquarters at 5808 16th St., N.W, Washington, D.C. 1970
Paid mortgage on National Headquarters 1978
Organized National Association of Boys Clubs 1980
Established Gertrude Johnson Williams Oratorical Contest for NACWC Youth 1982
Established Male Volunteers 1984
Home and School Institute Mentoring Program instituted
NACWC Record available on microfilm for scholarly research
Built Maternity Healthcare Center in Senegal 1994
Celebrated 100th Anniversary 1996
Organized College Chapters at Texas, Tennessee and Purdue Universities 1997
Initiated pilot project to establish Grandparents Academy 1998
Established the NACWC/Talladega College Education Partnership 1998
Completed renovation of 1601 R Street, N. W. Headquarters 2000
Initiated collaboration with Women for Women 2000
Received grant from estate of Dr. Edmonia Polite to Establish the Patricia L. Fletcher Scholarship 2002
Received first place monetary award from the Black Woman’s Agenda for the Grandparents Academy funded by Annie E. Casey Foundation 2002
Initiated collaboration with Women for Women International 2003
Participated in the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Mary Church Terrell Place in Washington, DC 2004
Commissioned 2nd edition of NACWC Legacy of Service 2005
Celebrated 110th Anniversary in Detroit, Michigan 2006
Hosted a Pre-Inaugural Reception for President Elect Obama 2009
Published “From Then Until Now”, a national directory 2010
Named by Ebony Magazine as one of the top 10 non-profit organization in the country 2010