National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC)

The National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Inc. and Youth Affiliates (NACWC), founded in 1896 as the National Association of Colored Women, has its headquarters at 16th and R Streets. The house, designed by architect Jules Henri de Sibour, was built in 1910, and was for a time the home of “Cissy” Patterson—a journalist and the editor of the Washington Herald and Times newspapers—and later the Knights of Columbus until NACWC purchased it in 1954.

  • <p>March Church Terrell, the first NACW President, established an ambitious and forward-thinking agenda for the organization, focusing on job training, wage equity, and child care. The organization raised funds for kindergartens, vocational schools, summer camps, and retirement homes. In addition, the NACW opposed segregated transportation systems and was a strong and visible supporter of the antilynching movement. (c, 1919)</p>

1601 R St NW

  • <p>The five-story “Grand Old Lady” headquarters, located at 1601 R Street NWis both a guardian of the past and a steward of the future for a storied organization. It was constructed in 1910 and served the Knights of Columbus before the NACWC’s purchase in 1954. Today it houses records, artifacts, and more that document the NACWC’s history since its establishment in 1896, while also maintaining its use as administrative offices and meeting spaces.</p> <p>Five story, red brick building pictured on a sunny day with two large green trees and blue sky.</p>
  • <p>Believing that understanding history would empower Blacks to protect the gains they had made and take action in other arenas, the NACWC sponsored programs to document black history. The first national project in 1920 led to the redemption of the Anacostia home of Frederick Douglass.</p>
  • <p>Black and white photo of a church on a corner with central entrance and two turrets with tall arched windows.</p>
  • <p>Hallie Q. Brown involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign led her to help organize the Colored Women’s League in Washington, D.C., one of the organizations that allied in 1896 to become the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). She served as President of the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs between 1905 and 1912 and President of the NACW from 1920 to 1924. In 1924, She spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Hallie Q. Brown published four significant works during her lifetime.</p>
  • <p>Mary B. Talbert, President of the National Association of Colored Women</p>
  • <p>Phyllis Wheatley Club, Buffalo, NY, was an affiliate of the Natl Assoc. of Colored Women’s Clubs. Founded in 1899, they established a settlement house in 1905.</p>
  • <p>NACWC National Convention – Rhode Island  2018</p>

Notable members instrumental in founding the NACW in 1896 include Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Anna Julia Cooper (above), Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Frances E. W. Harper, Margaret Murray Washington (below).

NACWC is the first national, secular organization of black women in the US. The NACWC, which formally changed its name in 1958, is a network of women’s local clubs and affiliate organizations located across the United States engaged in social justice and welfare initiatives. It is dedicated to initiatives that impact the welfare of the family, community education, scholarship assistance and the promotion of racial harmony. In the early 1990's, the NACWC had close to forty thousand members in fifteen hundred local clubs engaged primarily in educational, social service, and fund-raising activities. The motto of the NACWC, "Lifting As We Climb", continues to serve as a guiding source of inspiration.

Mary Church Terrell, the first NACW President, and its members established an ambitious and forward-thinking agenda for the organization, focusing on job training, wage equity, and child care. The organization raised funds for kindergartens, vocational schools, homes for girls and boys, YWCA’s and retirement homes. In addition, the NACW organized suffrage clubs, held citizenship classes and mothers meetings, opposed segregated transportation systems and was a strong, visible supporter of prison reform and the anti-lynching movement.

Phyllis Wheatley Club, Buffalo, NY, was an affiliate of the Nat’l Assoc. of Colored Women’s Clubs. Founded in 1899, they established a settlement house in 1905.

Hallie Q. Brown’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign led her to help organize the Colored Women’s League in Washington, D.C., one of the organizations that later merged with the National Federation of Afro-American women to become the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). After leading the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, she served as President of the NACW from 1920 to 1924. In 1924, She spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Hallie Q. Brown published four significant works during her lifetime.

Mary B. Talbert, President of the National Association of Colored Women (1918-1920), was a suffragist, the National Director of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders, and known for her international work for human rights. Mary B. Talbert was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005.

Mary McCleod Bethune, 8th President of the NACWC (1924-1928), led the Florida Federation and teh Southeastern Region of NACW. She established a boarding school for girls in Daytona Beach which would become the Bethune-Cookman College in 1929. She went on to organize and lead the National Council of Negro Women.

Believing that understanding history would empower Blacks to protect the gains they had made and take action in other arenas, the NCNW sponsored programs to preserve and document Black history, an initiative that continues to today. The purchase and maintenance of the Frederick Douglass home in Anacostia is one example of NCNW preservation efforts. The Douglass estate, Cedar Hill, was maintained by the NACW until it became a National Historic Site, as a part of the National Park Service, in 1962.

The NACWC continues as a multi-generational organization organizing youth clubs and young adults on college campuses and in major cities (above). The Gladettes Girls Club in Ohio help with food distribution during the Covid-19 pandemic (below).

On July 21, 1986, the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC was the site of the first convention meeting of the National Association of Colored Women. The organizations attending this convention included the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the Woman's Era Club of Boston, and the National League of Colored Women of Washington, DC.

Activism is a core activity for NACWC members since its founding. For example, NACW issues an anti-lyching pamphlet (1922) and protests lynching at the White House (1946). In 1952, 88-year-old Mary Church Terrell pickets segregated restaurants in Washington DC.