In the winter of 1970 in New York City, 24 African-American women, led by visionary Edna Beach, began meeting in their homes to assess the problems and opportunities left behind in the wake of the turbulent 1960s. As a result of their meetings, they formed the Coalition of 100 Black Women. Throughout the 1970s they slowly, but persistently worked to master root causes of issues that affected their families, communities and themselves. They boldly began to reach out to other African-American women in common cause and eventually mobilized their emerging stature as a visible force of influence promoting gender and racial equity.
By 1981 the New York Coalition had over 500 members throughout New York City’s metropolitan area, far in excess of the symbolic “100” in its name. Its effective role-model projects and its association with grass-roots community activity received notice in both local and national news media. As the Coalition gained recognition, African-American women from other parts of the country aspired to duplicate its mission and programs in their own communities.
The New York Coalition decided to create a national organization to expand beyond New York City leading to the “National” designation in its name. The National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NC100BW) was launched on October 24, 1981 with representatives from 14 states and the District of Columbia. Jewell Jackson McCabe was the first national president. The organization grew quite rapidly and by 1986 there were 47 chapters in 19 states with a membership of 3,000.
As the size of the organization grew so did the concerns and thoughts about how to positively impact the African-American community. The consensus of the organization in 1986 is perhaps best summed up in the following paragraph from its first newsletter:
“No longer can Black women operate on the basis of reacting to crises and depending on crash programs to solve them…they know, as they have in the past, that they must understand and direct present trends and become aware of the new economic and social realities that are emerging. Seeking empowerment as a distinct group, they need to analyze their attitudes about power and understand both the traditional and unconventional routes to power. Most importantly, Black women are the linchpin of leadership continuity among all Black people and understand the need for mentoring that must be nurtured and honed day by day, from one generation to another.”
Today NC100BW consists of progressive women of African descent from 25 states and the District of Columbia who make up more than 75 chapters with membership exceeding 7,500. Their commitment to gender equity and socioeconomic advancement drives meaningful change to benefit women and children of color. This mission is carried out through a variety of advocacy initiatives on the national and local levels and various strategic alliances.
Michele Emory of the Baltimore, Maryland Chapter currently serves as president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.
For more information, visit our national web site.