National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO)

Organization Profile

Florynce Kennedy
Florynce Kennedy, 1970s. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Founded: May, 1973, announced August 15, 1973

Ended existence: 1976, national organization; 1980, last local chapter.

Key founding members: Florynce Kennedy, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Margaret Sloan, Faith Ringgold, Michele Wallace, Doris Wright.

First (and only) president: Margaret Sloan

Number of chapters at peak: about 10

Number of members at peak: more than 2000

From the 1973 Statement of Purpose:

The distorted male-dominated media image of the Women’s Liberation Movement has clouded the vital and revolutionary importance of this movement to Third World women, especially black women. The Movement has been characterized as the exclusive property of so-called white middle-class women and any black women seen involved in this movement have been seen as “selling out,“dividing the race,” and an assortment of nonsensical epithets. Black feminists resent these charges and have therefore established The National Black Feminist Organization, in order to address ourselves to the particular and specific needs of the larger, but almost cast-aside half of the black race in Amerikkka, the black woman.

Focus: the double burden of sexism and racism for black women, and in particular, to raise the visibility of black women in both the Women's Liberation Movement and the Black Liberation Movement.

The initial Statement of Purpose also emphasized the need to counter negative images of black women.  The statement criticized those in the black community and the “white male Left” for excluding black women from leadership roles, calling for an inclusive Women’s Liberation Movement and Black Liberation Movement, and for visibility in the media of black women in such movements. In that statement, black nationalists were compared to white racists.

Issues about the role of black lesbians were not raised in the statement of purpose, but immediately came to the forefront in discussions.  It was a time, however, when there was considerable fear that taking on the issue of that third dimension of oppression might make organizing more difficult.

The members, who came with many different political perspectives, differed considerably on strategy and even issues. Arguments over who would and would not be invited to speak involved both political and strategic differences, and also personal infighting. The organization was unable to transform the ideals into cooperative action, or organize effectively.

Key event: Regional Conference, New York City, November 30 – December 2, 1973, at Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, attended by about 400 women

Key event: Combahee River Collective formed by the breakaway Boston NBFO chapter, with a self-defined revolutionary socialist agenda, including both economic and sexuality issues. 

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/national-black-feminist-organization-nbfo-3528292. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, March 25). National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/national-black-feminist-organization-nbfo-3528292 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/national-black-feminist-organization-nbfo-3528292 (accessed November 19, 2017).