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Black Women's Health Imperative records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00487

Scope and Contents

The records consist of materials pertaining to the administration and the public outreach work of the BWHI, including board of directors files, reports, correspondence, conference materials, photograph albums, publications, memorabilia, and audiovisual materials. There is a large amount of publications including promotional and educational materials produced by the organization including books, pamphlets, posters, brochures, fact sheets, newsletters, self-help manuals, and videos. There is also a small amount of material pertaining to Byllye Avery, founder of BWHI. Most of the collection pertains directly to the organization's work but some reflects political issues including a full page advertisement from the New York Times taken out by hundreds of people of color and organizations supporting Professor Anita Hill and opposing the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1980 - 2018


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that it owns copyright, BWHI has assigned the copyright in their unpublished works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by BWHI, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

The Black Women's Health Imperative, originally called the Black Women's Health Project (BWHP), then the National Black Women's Health Project (NBWHP), was established by women's health and reproductive rights advocate Byllye Avery in 1981 as a program of the National Women's Health Network in Atlanta, GA. At the first National Conference on Black Women's Health Issues, held at Spelman College in 1983, the BWHP became an independent national organization. Its purpose was to develop and disseminate self-help methodologies, including "group psychosocial therapy empower Black women to attain healthy living and overall physical, mental and spiritual wellness." In 1984, having been incorporated and renamed the National Black Women's Health Project, the organization purchased a national headquarters in Atlanta, affectionately known as The Mother House. One of the NBWHP's first initiatives was to begin holding quarterly task force meetings to gather information about and develop a cohesive perspective on Black women's health issues. Another primary facet of the organization's work has consistently involved networking and collaborating with Black women in other countries on health issues (Africa, South America, the West Indies, as well as the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China and the Beijing + 5 NGO Host Committee). The organization has produced and published numerous films, videotapes and books pertaining to Black women's health issues.

Key projects, some of them ongoing, include implementation and promotion of a national fitness program, Walking for Wellness (1992); the Domestic Violence Initiative (1995); development and implementation of substance abuse education and prevention programs on eight historically black college and university campuses (1996); REACH 2010, a study of intervention strategies to reduce cardiovascular risk among Black church women in New Orleans(2000); development of the Black Women's Wellness Study, a weight management pilot program undertaken in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania (2001); Because I am a Queen, a national television campaign and online smoking prevention and cessation program directed to Black women (2002); and Take Your Loved One to the Doctor Day, a national multimedia campaign to promote gynecological visits, directed specifically to Black women and undertaken in partnership with the USDHHS (2002). In 2003, the organization was instrumental in convening the National Colloquium on Black Women's Health, "to generate a national sense of urgency to address the unequal burden of health issues borne by Black women." That year the organization changed its name to the Black Women's Health Imperative.


18.877 linear feet (20 containers)

16.80368 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Women of color, reproductive rights, and women's health advocacy organization. The records consist of materials pertaining to the administration and the public outreach work of the Black Women's Health Imperative (BWHI), including board of directors files reports, correspondence, conference materials, photograph albums, memorabilia, and audiovisual materials. There is a large amount of promotional and educational materials produced by BWHI including pamphlets, posters, brochures, fact sheets, newsletters, self-help manuals, and videos.


The collection was divided into the following series:


  1. Administration
  2. Programs
  3. Conferences and Events
  4. Photographs
  5. Publications
  6. Memorabilia
  7. Byllye Avery papers

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Black Women's Health Imperative began donating their records to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2003. Additional papers were donated by various BWHI staff: Linda Blount (in 2018), Adwoa Agyeman(in 2005), and Eleanor Hinton Hoytt(in 2009).


Processors removed duplicate materials and materials that were not produced by or did not evidently pertain to BWHI. Both of these seperations took place in 2019 as part of the arrangement and description of the collection.


Periodic additions to the collection are expected.

Additional Formats

Some original video recordings have been copied to digital files for research use. Playlist available online:

Related Materials

Associated material can be found in the Loretta Ross papers; the Byllye Avery papers; the Nkenge Touré papers and the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project (Loretta Ross and Nkenge Touré).

Processing Information

The papers of Black Women’s Health Imperative were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection beginning in 2003 and arrived in several batches periodically since then from various sources. In 2019 Ellice Amanna, Scott Biddle, and Madison White reviewed the materials from those accessions and processed them into a single collection. While much of the material was in folders, there was no evident organization to the various batches. The processors determined that the materials divided logically into administrative records, programs, conferences and events, publications, and photographs and foldered and organized the materials into those series. The AV material, some of which had been digitized, also fit into those series and were housed separately, in two record cartons, but described in the finding aid under their respective series. The oversized materials were handled in the same manner. Because a significant portion of the photographs were unidentified, a decision was made to create a separate series for photographs. Where possible, the organization’s original folders were used and processors added any missing information, such as dates or the collection name, to those folder tabs; but in most cases the materials were placed in new folders and labeled according to the new collection organization.

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created. Some CDs were unable to be copied. See the log files linked in the container list for more details.

Finding Aid to the Black Women's Health Imperative records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Ellice Amanna, Scott Biddle, and Madison White
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:22-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019-02-21: Legacy record was updated to include recent accessions
  • 2019-08-08: Updated after processing of collection.
  • 2020-06-29: Description added for born-digital content.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063