Mary McLeod Bethune in Washington, DC: Activism and Education in Logan Circle (2013).
The condition of the African American woman presents a peculiar position. At the nexus of two marginalized groups—African Americans and women—her worldview provides her with a unique vision where humanity is able to breathe freely, harness their strengths and live full lives. Through collective action in the form of the club movements as well as via individual endeavors, these women made their voices heard. Thus, the extraordinary life of Mary McLeod Bethune—which spanned two centuries, two world wars and the Great Depression–contributed significantly to this tradition. She was an educator, race leader and humanitarian. This work examines the life of Bethune when she resided in Washington, D.C., from 1943 to 1949. During this brief window of time, she grew the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) from a small organization intended for greatness into a national organization that became the leading voice of Negro women’s activism/agency.
Bethune’s life in Washington fulfilled a longstanding dream to house a national Negro women’s organization in the nation’s capital to lobby for the rights of Negro women and children. Moreover, the national headquarters served as the community space where the world could meet and engage Negro women as citizens. NCNW’s House provided literal and figurative sanctuary for Negro women. The business affairs of NCNW such as publishing and mailing the Telefacts newsletter, Aframerican Women’s Journal, as well as housing the archives and library, provided the membership and visitors with information on the accomplishments of Negro women. Moreover, the house provided an intangible sense of success and status for Negro women where international guests from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean were received and able to explore the history and culture of Negro womanhood as created and presented by themselves.
Dr. Ida E. Jones is a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts. She came to Washington, DC to attend Howard University. She graduated with a B.A. in News Editorial Journalism with a double minor in music and history.
When asked how do you support yourself as an author. My response is through my secret life and dual identity. My Bruce Wayne is a daytime persona who works in a special collection working as an assistance curator. My Batman at night when my muse is alive is writing. Initially, I wrote book reviews and paper presentations. My first book grew out of a curiosity with the creation of my place of Wayne employment. Learning about the genesis of the special collection and the brainchild behind it whose name was lost to history spurred me to excavate him and place him back in the contemporary conversation. Moreover, the personal papers of the man were housed in the special collection. Serendipity!
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