Strategic Sisterhood

The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle

By Rebecca Tuuri

338 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, 1 map, 1 graph, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3890-4
    Published: May 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3889-8
    Published: May 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3891-1
    Published: April 2018

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When women were denied a major speaking role at the 1963 March on Washington, Dorothy Height, head of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), organized her own women's conference for the very next day. Defying the march's male organizers, Height helped harness the womanpower waiting in the wings. Height’s careful tactics and quiet determination come to the fore in this first history of the NCNW, the largest black women's organization in the United States at the height of the civil rights, Black Power, and feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Offering a sweeping view of the NCNW's behind-the-scenes efforts to fight racism, poverty, and sexism in the late twentieth century, Rebecca Tuuri examines how the group teamed with U.S. presidents, foundations, and grassroots activists alike to implement a number of important domestic development and international aid projects. Drawing on original interviews, extensive organizational records, and other rich sources, Tuuri’s work narrates the achievements of a set of seemingly moderate, elite activists who were able to use their personal, financial, and social connections to push for change as they facilitated grassroots, cooperative, and radical activism.

About the Author

Rebecca Tuuri is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi.
For more information about Rebecca Tuuri, visit the Author Page.


“Provides an exemplary account for understanding the often blurry lines between moderates and movements.”--Black Perspectives

Strategic Sisterhood is an important and timely analysis of how citizens can work across class and racial divides to improve opportunity and access for black women. This story is engrossing, and Tuuri’s arguments are sophisticated, convincing, and forcefully written.”--Gail S. Murray, Rhodes College

"Never again can the efforts of the National Council of Negro Women be overlooked or misunderstood. Rebecca Tuuri puts the Council's work front and center demonstrating how it developed a local approach to national and international issues such as racial discrimination, unemployment, hunger, and substandard housing. While the organization's tactics and priorities have changed over time, its commitment to improving the lives of black women has never wavered. Strategic Sisterhood is a deeply researched study that challenges us to broaden our understanding of what constitutes radical political work."--Crystal R. Sanders, Pennsylvania State University

"Strategic Sisterhood, well-written and astute,  is essential reading. It is a rare study of a major twentieth century black women’s organization, and one of the few, if not the first, to delineate the relationship of a women’s organization to the black freedom struggle."--Paula J. Giddings, Smith College