McKinney & Associates
With a “Women at Work” shingle hung in
its basement office at the St. Augustine
Ecumenical Center, McKinney & McDowell
Associates is born. It is the first African American
woman-owned PR firm in the nation’s capital that
expressly promotes social justice advocacy.
1991The Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO awards annual retainer to raise the voice of public service workers. Mc & Mc moves from the church basement to the lower lobby of Wider Opportunities for Women at 1325 G Street, N.W.
The firm orchestrates a communications
campaign for the First National People of Color Leadership Summit on the Environment,
signaling the beginning of the
environmental justice movement.
For his second visit to the United States, South
African President Nelson Mandela engages former
anti-apartheid campaigners Gwen McKinney and
Leila McDowell to arrange a Newsmaker’s
Luncheon at the National Press Club.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF),
the nation’s preeminent civil rights law firm,
taps McKinney & McDowell as agency of record.
Under the leadership of LDF’s newly appointed president, Elaine R. Jones, the partnership
solidifies our brand as a racial justice
McKinney & McDowell join
President Jéan Bertrand Aristide on his
return to Haiti after serving as his government’s
agency of record during his exile in the
United States (1992–1994).
Alarmed over the treatment of women in
U.S. prisons and the growing use of stun
technology, Amnesty International USA (AI)
retains us to create Human Rights—Not Just
a Foreign Affair. The campaign enlists
Muhammad Ali and his daughter Laila,
and helps establish AI’s
McKinney & McDowell supports LDF in
a three-year public education campaign for
Hampton University student Kemba Smith,
wrongfully jailed for drug trafficking. Our efforts
brought international attention to unjust drug
sentencing laws, and led to President Clinton
granting Smith clemency in 2000.
Now well established in the D.C.
communications landscape, McKinney moves
to the K Street corridor—at the very center
of Washington’s leading think tanks,
lobbyists and advocacy groups.
On a tip from the firm, New York Times
columnist Bob Herbert spurs national media
coverage for Lacresha Murray, sentenced at
age 11 to 25 years in an Austin prison.
Under the glare of national attention,
Murray is ultimately cleared by the
Texas Supreme Court.
Death row inmate Gary Graham is executed
by the state of Texas after an unprecedented
media push focused on his innocence.
The McKinney-supported campaign gained
international attention that helped move
the national debate on the death penalty.
McKinney & McDowell joins the
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to publicize
hearings and release a groundbreaking report
on Florida’s 2000 presidential election,
which documented election irregularities
and Black voter disenfranchisement.
McKinney & McDowell becomes
McKinney & Associates. The name
has changed, but the passion and mission
remain the same: Public Relations
with a Conscience.
McKinney's national media campaign in
support of The Murder of Emmett Till,
by acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson,
helps reopen the investigation into the
horrific murder that ignited the
20th century civil rights
McKinney marks the 50th anniversary
of the historic Brown v. Board of Education
ruling ending school segregation. In addition
to nationwide communications activities,
we arrange coast-to-coast screenings of
Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise,
a PBS documentary by Stanley Nelson’s
In the run-up to New Orleans’ municipal
elections, McKinney partners with LDF and the
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for
a multi-tiered media campaign upholding
voting rights for displaced Hurricane
McKinney leads communications efforts
for a Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
coalition that culminates in reauthorization of
the landmark Voting Rights Act, extending
protection to minority voters for 25 years.
Gwen McKinney receives an
Outstanding Public Service Award from the
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
for her commitment to ending
Foreshadowing the national health care
debate, McKinney manages communications
for California Newsreel’s acclaimed four-part
PBS documentary series Unnatural Causes:
Is Inequality Making Us Sick?
McKinney begins a long run as the
managing firm among five communications
agencies supporting the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation’s Human Capital Portfolio, providing
strategic management and grantee support for
the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated to
improving the health and health care
of all Americans.
McKinney develops an unprecedented
campaign to reach and mobilize Black
women of childbearing age for the Maternal,
Child & Adolescent Health division at
the California Department of Public Health.
The federally funded education campaign
supports infant health centers and
Black women’s health across the state.
Reflecting on 20 years of progressive
communications advocacy, support and service,
McKinney marks the anniversary with a
renewed commitment to grow, thrive and
respond to the challenges and opportunities
of the new decade.
The firm wins a Silver Inkwell Award
from the International Association of Business
Communicators, DC Metro Chapter, for our
NAACP voting rights communications
campaign, Stand for Freedom.
Gwen McKinney is one of three finalists
for the Washington PR Woman of the Year
award from Washington Women in PR.