Phyllis Wheatley YWCA
901 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Originally the Colored Young Women's Christian Association, this was the city's first YWCA and the nation's first and only independent black YWCA. It was organized in 1905 by members of the Book Lovers Club, a black women's literary group led by Rosetta Lawson, one of the co-founders of Frelinghuysen University. The founders sought to provide affordable housing and services to African American women and girls flocking to the city to seek employment.
In 1920 the YWCA moved to its newly constructed building and was renamed to honor Phyllis Wheatley (ca.1753-1784), considered the first published African American poet. National Council of Negro Women President Emerita Dorothy Height served as executive secretary from 1939 to 1944.
The Colored Women's YWCA began operations in the Miner Institution Building in Southwest. During World War I (1914-1918), the national board of directors of the YWCA received $4 million from the U.S. Government. Part of that money was allocated to the Colored Women's YWCA to build a new headquarters in Washington.
The primary work of the YWCA was to provide housing, recreation, and vocational and Christian guidance to women. The Wheatley YWCA also housed an impressive collection of African Americana and was used by local and national organizations for conferences and meetings. It is currently a residential complex for women.