September 15, 1898 The National Afro-American Council, the first nationwide civil rights organization in the United States, was founded in Rochester, New York.
The council was the brainchild of New York journalist Timothy Thomas Fortune and was led for most of its existence by A. M. E. Zion Bishop Alexander Walters. Other officers of the organization included journalist Ida B. Wells and Federal Customs Official John C. Dancy. It was one of the first national organizations to welcome women members and treat them equally with men.
The Council was considered the nation’s premier organization of African Americans, and met regularly with President William McKinley. The Council was dissolved in 1907 due to internal friction and lack of revenue. Many former members of the Council helped form the core of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League.