In the late 1970s, at the invitation of BPIA founder 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 black professionals in the Diaspora in international and intercultural affairs. The representatives unanimously agreed there was a need for such an organization.
During the decade of the 80s, the number of African Americans in diplomacy and foreign service declined. Professionally prepared African Americans found it difficult to find employment in government or the private sector. In order to encourage and assist black participation in a broad spectrum of international affairs, BPIA held its founding meeting on January 26, 1989, in the Great Hall of the historic Charles Sumner Archives and Gallery in Washington, DC. BPIA made its debut to the public with their November 1990 symposium “A Salute to African American Ambassadors.”
Through the perseverance of Ms. Patterson, BPIA was incorporated in the District of Columbia and granted Federal tax-exempt status as a 501©(3) association to the extent permitted by Federal and/or State laws in March 1989. The organization was formed as an educational, charitable, non-profit membership association to increase the involvement of African Americans and other people of African heritage in international affairs. BPIA implements its educational, economic, cultural exchange, and human resource development objectives through public education programs and conferences; referrals; a newsletter; professional networking and outreach activities; an international mentors forum; and a scholarship program.