The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was founded in the summer of 1896 in an effort to combat the negative stereotypes circulating around black women. A southern journalist, James Jacks, referred to African American women as prostitutes and liars, and this organization was not having it, and rightfully so! The creation of the group was also inspired somewhat as a response to an unfortunate increase in lynchings, disenfranchisement, and segregation. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is always credited with being one of the first successful black civil rights advocacy groups. That being said, such a narrative discredits the incredible black women that formed the NACW several years before the NAACP ever came to fruition.
The NACW was founded by some of the most popular names in both black and American history. Harriet Tubman, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Margaret Murray Washington, Ida B Wells, just to name a few. The first president of the organization was even Mary Church Terrell. The group lived and continues to live by a mission of “lifting as we climb.” The idea behind this philanthropy was a notion that the advancement of black women would lead to the advancement of not only the race as a whole but the societal community of all as well.
Their goal was to improve the overall perception of the black women in America, but they achieved many things beyond just that; they aided children with poor health, lack of education, and who had nowhere to live, they even raised funds for schools and homes for the elderly. The NACW was also heavily concerned with suffrage for black men and women, historically.
Many of the women who were part of the NACW eventually joined the NAACP after its creation in 1909. The NAACP has been able to persevere into our modern-day society. Unfortunately, not all black coalition groups have proven to have had such longevity. This feature of the NAACP has been largely credited to the fact that the organization was more inclusive and diverse. The fact that women were active members of the NAACP, many would assert, was vital to its success; it broadened the landscape as to whose rights were being advocated for, within the black community. The women of the NACW that assisted with the establishment of the NAACP have aided greatly in the organization’s success, and they should be acknowledged for the credit they deserve. So, let’s make sure we’re remembering brave women like these, not just during Black History Month, but year round.