Before the 1860s Logan Circle was farm land. During the Civil War, the section established itself a refuge for escaped slaves and freedmen to develop a squatter community. After the war, it became a racially diverse neighborhood with middle class businessmen and professionals building homes.
The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House on 1318 Vermont Avenue, NW, set a precedent in forming African-American women’s clubs to economically, politically, and socially empower and uplift their race and gender. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in 1935. The organization was an umbrella for women’s clubs to educate and encourage women in politics and community service; endorse projects for civil rights; and start black women’s archives. The organization was located at the council house from 1943 to 1966. It was Ms. Bethune’s residence from 1943 to 1949.
The house was previously owned by Alphonso and Anna Gravalles for thirty-one years. They sold the property to her for $15,000. Money to buy the house came from contributions of NCNW executive staff; funds raised by NCNW sections; and a $10,000 donation from Marshall Field, founder of Marshall Field and Company. The home furnishings were contributed by individuals and organizations.
The Council House served delegates from around the world including Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Church Terrell, and United Nations delegate from India Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. Upstairs the conference room served as a meeting room for NCNW’s activities to address issues affecting the African-American community. It was also a rallying point for individuals and organizations who attended the 1963 March on Washington.
In 1966, a furnace fire damaged the headquarters. National Council of Negro Women relocated to 1348 Connecticut Avenue. The house remained dormant until 1975 when it was placed on the Washington, D.C. Register of Historic Sites. The organization raised funds to renovate and restore the house on 1318 Vermont Avenue. In November 1979, the Bethune Council House was opened as a museum and archives of Black Women’s history.
The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House serves as a reminder of building a foundation for African-American women in leadership, diversity and education.
The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House 1318 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005 (202) 673-2402 www.nps.gov/mamc
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House was the headquarters for the National Council of Negro Women (1943-1966) and Mary McLeod Bethune’s residence from 1943-1949. The house was a hub for African-American women’s organizations.
The Conference Room
Meetings were conducted in the conference room to address the social and political concerns of African-Americans. The National Council of Negro Women was an umbrella for women’s clubs to start an archives; endorse projects for civil rights; and educate and encourage women in politics.
Bethune Goes to Hollywood
Mary McLeod Bethune was active in the entertainment industry encouraging African-American celebrities to promote civil rights and end racial segregation.
Mary McLeod’s Bedroom
The picture above the bed are her parents. Her parents were former slaves. Adjacent is the picture of Mary McLeod Bethune in her youth. Mary lived in the Washington, D.C. area.
From left to right: Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary Church Terrell; Mary Francis Waring: and Elizabeth Brooks. The women served as president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. The photo was taken by Fred Harris.
The Front Parlor
The parlor room of the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House. The furniture is in its originality and was donated by individuals and organizations.
The Parlor Room
The parlor room of the Council House hosted delegates from around the world. Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Church Terrell, and Madam Panjit were visitors of the house.
The chandeliers are part of the Roosevelt collection. They were donated by the Roosevelt family in the mid-1940s. The chandeliers are original.
Alex, the tour guide
Alex gave this examiner a tour of the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House. He gave some insightful information about the house and Mary McLeod Bethune. She is truly an inspiration not only for African-Americans, but for all Americans.