From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

National Afro-American Council

The first meeting of the National Afro-American Council was held in Rochester, NY in 1898. It was the first national civil rights organization in the United States, serving as an umbrella organization with local and state branches. The group was led by Bishop Alexander Walters from Bardstown, KY, who served as elected president from 1898-1902. The Council had been co-created by Timothy Thomas Fortune along with Walters; both he and Walters were members of the unsuccessful National Afro-American League. Fortune was elected the second president of the National Afro-American Council and served until 1904 when he resigned and Kentucky native William Henry Steward, the vice president, completed his term.

Bishop Walters was re-elected in 1905 and served until the organization closed in 1907. The annual meetings of the National Afro-American Council were held in large cities; they met in Louisville, KY in 1903. Women members were also welcomed: Ida B. Wells-Barnett served as the first secretary. The Council campaigned for an anti-lynching law and voting rights for African Americans in the South.

For a more complete history of the National Afro-American Council, see E. L. Thornbrough, "The National Afro-American League, 1887-1908," The Journal of Southern History, vol. 27, issue 4 (Nov. 1961), pp. 494-512; and A. Shaw, "The Origins of the Niagara Movement: The Afro-American League and the Afro-American Council," a paper presented at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Buffalo, NY, 8/31/2009.

See also The National Afro-American council, organized 1898: A history of the organization, its objects, synopses of proceedings, constitution and by-laws, plan of organization, annual topics, etc.: Comp. by Cyrus Field Adams, secretary ... in the "African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection (862), a Library of Congress website.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Walters, Alexander
NKAA Entry: Steward, William H.
NKAA Source: The Journal of southern history (periodical)
NKAA Entry: Adams, Cyrus Field

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Adams, John Quincy "J.Q."

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“National Afro-American Council,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-03-15 16:43:34