Getting Together to Exercise Power: A Case Study of the National Association of Black Women Attorneys
Wendy Renee Withers
Robert L. Harris, Jr
Thesis DT 3.5 1989 W824
viii, 139 leaves; 29 cm.
This thesis examines a Black woman's professional organization and seeks to answer question such as: Why have Black women started their own groups? What roles does such an organization provide for its members? As a case study, I focused on the National Association of Black Women Attorneys (NABWA). NABWA was formed in 1972 promoted by a call from Attorney Wilhelmina J. Rolark at a Miami convention of the National Bar Association (NBA). Rolark was joined by Barbara Sims, Gwendolyn Cherry, and Jean Capers.
Information for this thesis is based on library research through books, articles, and journals. Primary data comes from interviews with NABWA members. Because of the lack of material on my specific topic, Black women's professional associations, I synthesized insights from work on professional associations, women's professional associations and Black organizations. For specific material on Black women in the law, I relied on the subjects Blacks and women in law.
From the research, I learned that Black women formed their own organizations due to race and gender discrimination. The women who formed NABWA discovered that gender prevented them from exercising leadership roles in the NBA. As a result, they created an organization where the talents and strengths of Black women could be utilized. A professional association also provided Black women with the opportunity to network and to develop contacts with other Black women.
While some may see NABWA as "separatist", members rejected the label. Most of the interviewees belonged to other association, particularly those controlled by men. They also refused to view their organization as "less than" their male counterparts. Instead, women recognized their organizations as being different from those controlled by men; yet, they viewed that difference as positive. NABWA in particular has served as a source of strength for Black women attorneys in recognizing that they are not alone in pursuing careers in what heretofore has been a primarily white male dominated profession.