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
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3891-1
    Published: April 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4892-5
    Published: April 2018

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians

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 adds to the expanding narrative of mid- and late-twentieth-century struggles to fight racism, sexism, and poverty. The National Council of Negro Women’s institutional history and, especially, Dorothy Height’s ability to work behind the scenes to create change highlight the ways individuals and organizations worked together to move the country forward.”--Journal of Southern History

“Joins a long list of historical scholarship on the role of black women in the long freedom struggle. Tuuri makes a unique contribution to the growing body of literature by focusing on black middle-class women via the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). . . . Strategic Sisterhood is a much-needed corrective that will surely inspire important additional work.”--Journal of American History

“Tells important stories of women on both sides of the movement for Black liberation . . . [it is] extremely accessible and would be useful to scholars of social movements, Black studies, women’s studies, and generally anyone who seeks to be inspired by phenomenal women.”--The Sixties

“An important addition to the ever growing scholarship on black women’s organizations and their critical roles in the black freedom movement.”--Journal of Mississippi History

Strategic Sisterhood is a thorough study of the evolving activist roles of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) from 1935 to the present day. . . . The narrative thrusts readers into a fascinating and perplexing conceptual world, showing how cross-cutting organizational loyalties tugged at the ideological core of all these women as NCNW, CORE, SCLC, SNCC, and other organizations competed in the realm of political voluntarism. Tuuri’s welcome volume is important for undergraduate audiences and required for graduate and postdoctoral studies.”--The Journal of Southern Religion