In the late 1970s, at the invitation of international educator Barbara C. Patterson, black professionals affiliated with 40 organizations met in Washington, DC to discuss the possibility of forming a new international organization. This association would serve the growing, diversified interests and needs of African Americans and other black professionals of African heritage in international and intercultural affairs.
During the 1980s, the number of African Americans in diplomacy and Foreign Service declined. Professionally prepared African Americans found it difficult to find internationally focused employment in government or the private sector. In order to encourage and assist black participation in a broad spectrum of international affairs, as BPIA’s founder, Ms. Patterson convened the association’s founding meeting on January 26, 1989 in the Great Hall of the historic Charles Sumner Archives and Gallery in Washington, DC. BPIA would make its public debut in November 1990, with a symposium, “A Salute to African American Ambassadors.”
Through Ms. Patterson’s perseverance, BPIA was incorporated in the District of Columbia in March 1989, and granted Federal tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization in September 1995. The organization was established as an educational, charitable, non-profit membership association to increase the engagement of African Americans and other people of African heritage in international affairs.