Abstract

This article examines the National Council of Negro Women's (NCNW) participation in the founding conference of the United Nations. Moving beyond a focus on formal actors, it situates Mary McLeod Bethune, the organization's founder and president and the only African American woman to serve as an official representative, alongside her contemporaries on whom she relied. It argues that recovering the activism of Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Eunice Hunton Carter, Sue Bailey Thurman, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, and a host of other Black women is to recognize a polity that, by all accounts, was not supposed to be present or active in San Francisco. These women's activities at the conference and in the decades that followed illuminate the broad contours of Black women's antisexist, antiracist, and anticolonial activism during the Second World War into the Cold War period. Akin to their efforts at the founding conference, this population's creative practices and cultural diplomacy reveal that the councilwomen maintained an enduring commitment to global freedom and the United Nations’ radical potential.

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