The National Council of Negro Women and South Africa: Black Internationalism, Motherhood, and the Cold War

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This article examines the black international organizing of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). Focusing predominantly on the NCNW’s work in South Africa, it explores the changing nature of black internationalism during the early Cold War. Faced with the destabilizing effects of anticommunism, many moderate African American organizations worked with the US government when pushing for decolonization in Africa. Engaging in recent historical debates concerning the global outlook of black liberal organizations, the article will examine both the limitations and possibilities of this kind of political strategy. By documenting the NCNW’s work with the African Children’s Feeding Scheme (ACFS) – a church based programme that aimed to tackle the widespread malnourishment of African children in Johannesburg in the 1950s – this piece goes on to explore the ways in which African American women used maternalist ideas to engage with the struggles of black women in Africa. The activities of the ACFS mirrored many of the historical race concerns of African American NCNW members. By adopting a transnational framework, the NCNW’s efforts to provide food and care for black South African children were based around a global understanding of black motherhood and the desire to secure the wellbeing of black children both at home and abroad.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-87
Number of pages29
JournalPalimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • National Council of Negro Women
  • Apartheid
  • South Africa
  • Motherhood
  • Black Internationalism
  • Diaspora
  • Cold War

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