By Kelvin Muhia
On July 21, 1896, the National Association of Colored Women’s Club was established. The reason for the formation for this organization was due to an insulting reference stated by a Southern journalist James Jack who referred black women as “thieves, liars and prostitutes.”
In the late 19th century, many women in churches and in the greater American society formed women’s clubs that were aimed at fighting for the rights of women in the racist and sexist society. After the sexist accusations made by James Jack, all the black women’s clubs in the United States such as the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the Colored Women League of Washington DC and the Women’s Era Club of Boston merged together to form the one and powerful NACWC.
What really strengthened the operations of the NACWC was the convergence of a solid leadership led by some of the greatest African American women who helped shape the future of the black community in the U.S. Among these women include; Mary Church Terrell (the movement’s president), Ida B. Wells (journalist), Mary McLeod Bethune (educator and social leader), Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (poet) and Margaret Murray Washington (educator). Having begun with just a few members, the movement grew to over 100,000 registered members by 1916 and is currently one of the leading black women’s organizations with operations across 32 states in the United States.
In this article, we will highlight some of the primary objectives that led to the formation of the NACWC.
To promote education for both women and children
One of the major objectives that led to the formation of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club was to promote education and working conditions of black women and children. Embodied by their slogan “Lifting as we Climb”, the NACWC was able to help children through providing decent housing, education, good health and job opportunities.
To secure civil and political rights for all black Americans
Since the majority of the women who formed the backbone of the NACWC were educated with professional occupations, they were able to secure the civil and political rights of black Americans through organizing movements. Women such as Mary Church Terrell, Margaret Murray Washington and the outspoken anti-accommodationist Ida B. Wells were among the powerful women who worked hard to counter the negative image of African Americans in the eyes of the racist whites. The NACWC was also in the frontline in the fight against racial discrimination. Issues of lynching, unfair justice & imprisonment as well as segregated transportation were among the major things addressed by the movement.
To raise the living standards of black Americans
The NACWC formed money saving societies which helped to build kindergartens, orphanages and homes for the elderly. They also conducted daily classes where women were taught about proper hygiene, how to maintain good health and how to become better people in the black community.