Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole was recently sworn in as chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women, which was founded in 1935 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Dr. Cole took the oath of office as the organization’s chair and its 7th national president on November 11th during the organization’s 58th biennial ceremony in Washington, D.C. where the NCNW is headquartered.
“My heart if overflowing with gratitude for this honor to serve as the seventh president of this organization that has been the voice of black women since it was founded in 1935,” Dr. Cole said.
A lifelong member of NCNW, she was mentored by Dr. Bethune, longtime friend of Cole’s great grandfather.
Before taking over the leadership of NCNW, Dr. Cole served as president of Spelman College in Atlanta and Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She was a director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and she was also the first African American chair of the United Way of America.
The National Council of Negro Women, which has more than 650 delegates, representing more than 200 affiliates across the country, promotes education, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and HIV/AIDS education.
For 50 years, Dr. Dorothy Height served as NCNW’s president. Dr. Height died in 2010 at the age of 98.
Dr. Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman College, now university, in a two-story house in Daytona Beach, Florida, as an industrial school for girls.
Initially, six students attended the school —- five girls and one boy, her son. She was the school’s only employee and she did everything. Later she was able to hire a staff who sold pies, cakes and cookies to raise money.
She was able to interest James M. Gamble, co-founder of the Procter and Gamble Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, to invest in the school. Gamble served as chairman of its board of trustees until his death in 1891. In 1923 Bethune’s school merged with Cookman Institute for Boys, forming Bethune -Cookman College.
Bethune gained national recognition in 1936, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her director of African American affairs in the National Youth Administration and a special adviser on minority affairs.
Dr. Cole lives on Amelia Island in Florida.