• A founder of the Tacoma chapter of the NAACP in 1913, the first chapter founded west of the Rockies, and the Tacoma CWC, Asberry was a community leader and music teacher in Tacoma.
• She was a civil rights leader as Tacoma’s Hilltop grew into a home for the Black community.
• Led local activist response to the 1915 racist film The Birth of a Nation and later, the effort to integrate Fort Lewis.
• Caps the work of many partners over more than five years.
TACOMA—Today, Forterra and the Tacoma CWC announce the purchase of the historic Dr. Nettie Asberry home in Tacoma’s Hilltop community by the Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (Tacoma CWC). This move will help preserve the legacy of one of Washington’s most influential civil rights advocates and a pillar of the African American community.
“We are honored to play a role with our partners in the safeguarding of the legacy of Dr. Nettie Asberry’s moving life and legacy,” said Nicholas Carr, Forterra Community Development Director, “Too often powerful stories such as Nettie Asberry’s get lost over time, but this acquisition provides a place for Washingtonians to come and to be inspired by a beloved activist and teacher who fought for justice and became a towering figure in civil rights.”
In 2018, the Tacoma CWC reached out to Forterra and asked for help in acquiring the historic home of their founder, Nettie J. Asberry. Asberry was a civic leader, music teacher and civil rights activist in Tacoma in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century. The organization had been trying to buy the home for years but needed help securing funding and facilitating the real estate transaction. Forterra began to work with the Tacoma CWC in 2020 to raise the funding for the purchase of the home. Together, they were able to secure a grant from the State to acquire the property. The Tacoma CWC is also seeking designation of the property as a federal historic landmark. On Tuesday, the Tacoma City Council unanimously approved a resolution naming the Nettie J. Asberry Home as a local landmark. The organization and its partners will be pursuing additional funding and seeking community input into future uses for the historic site, while working on a plan to restore and preserve the home.
“This has been a long time coming and is a historic moment for Tacoma and for the Tacoma City Association of Colored Women,” said Cynthia Tucker, Board President of the Tacoma CWC. “We are so proud to be in this situation today, honoring our founder and preserving her legacy. We thank all who supported our organization in this effort!”
Carol Mitchell, former Board President and current Director of the Institute for Black Justice noted, “The Nettie J. Asberry project team that is working on this project is an amazingly diverse and cohesive group, without whom this moment would not have been possible. This team symbolizes the spirit of community activism and collaboration that Nettie and her husband, Henry, represented.”
Nettie J. Asberry was a civil rights icon and Black leader in Tacoma’s Hilltop until her death in 1968. She cemented her legacy in Tacoma through a lifetime of service to Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood and its residents. Her impact is tied to her home, located on 13th Street, now 130 years old. It was in this home that Dr. Asberry taught music and Black history to youth. It was from this home that the Hilltop response to the flu pandemic of 1918 was coordinated. It was in this home that she founded the Tacoma CWC, and the first NAACP Chapter west of the Rockies. It was also in this home that the Black community gathered to address civil rights for Black people during the first half of the 20th century.
A special thanks to the dedication of Tacoma CWC club members, who committed to keeping her name and her work alive, and all of the nonprofits and government partners that have contributed their time, funds and effort to make this a reality—Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective, Historic Tacoma, Institute for Black Justice, Tacoma Urban League, City of Tacoma, Washington State Department of Commerce and the Washington State Legislature, Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Washington State Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Washington State Historical Society.
Senior Director Strategic Communications, Forterra
President, Tacoma CWC
Forterra is an unconventional land trust that works across Washington’s communities and landscapes, from the ranches and shrub-steppe of the Yakima basin, to the estuaries, farms and forests of Washington’s coast, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, towns and rural communities. Working cooperatively with people and nature, Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning; innovative programs and policies; farming and forestry approaches; community ownership opportunities; and development solutions. Visit www.forterra.org.
ABOUT TACOMA CWC
The Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Club, Inc (Tacoma CWC) is a nonprofit organization established exclusively for charitable service. The Association’s mission is to promote and improve health, education, economic and cultural awareness so that lives and relationships are improved, and the quality of the community is enhanced. Visit www.tcacwc.org.