Remembering Pioneering Educator & Civil Rights Chief, Mary McLeod Wager – BOTWC

Your legacy lives on!

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 on a farm near Maysville, South Carolina. Reports. She was one of 17 children of Samuel and Patsy McLeod, former slaves who worked until they saved up to buy the farm where the family grew cotton. According to Bethune-Cookman UniversityBethune first enrolled in school and learned to read and write at the age of 10. She eventually pursued a career as an educator, working in Georgia and South Carolina, where she met and married her husband Albertus Bethune.

The two moved to Palatka, Florida, where Bethune worked in the Presbyterian Church and sold insurance. In 1904 she divorced her husband and founded the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School to train negro girls to care for their son. Bethune turned their boarding school into a college and merged with the all-male Cookman Institute to create Bethune-Cookman College.

Bethune was a pioneer in black education, teaching black children across Florida. She became an educational and civil rights advocate and activist and was a member of several organizations including president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, founding president of the National Council of Negro Women, and vice president of the NAACP, a title she held from 1940 until her death in 1955 .

The women’s rights attorney was an advisor to five US presidents, beginning as director of negro affairs for the National Youth Administration under President Franklin Roosevelt. She fought against discrimination and lynching and in 1937 organized the conference on the “Problems of Negro and Negro Youth”. She worked to promote the exodus of black voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party during the Great Depression a member of the advisory council that founded the Women’s Army Corps. In 1945, Bethune was the only black and colored woman to attend the founding conference of the United Nations.

Their legacy is extensive and unsurpassed; It has been celebrated many times posthumously, most recently with a statue in the US Capitol. Below are 10 quotes from Everyday power from Bethune who are sure to inspire you to action.

“Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.”

“Come in to learn; go to serve.”

“I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing trust in one another. I leave you with respect for the use of power. I leave you with faith. I leave you with racial dignity.”

“Knowledge is the main need of the hour.”

“There is a place in God’s sun for the ‘lowest’ youth who have the vision, determination and courage to achieve them.”

“Alongside God, we are committed to women, first for life itself and then for its worth living.”

“Power, if directed intelligently, can lead to more freedom. Unwise it can be a terrible, destructive force.”

“We have great potential in our youth and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we can focus their power on good ends.”

“I threw myself into the task of creating something out of nothing.”

“A woman is free when she lives by her own standards and creates her own destiny, when she values ​​her individuality and sets no limits to her hopes for tomorrow.”

Thank you for your work, Ms. Bethune. May you continue to rest in sweet peace. Because of you we can!

Photo courtesy Scurlock Studio Records / Archives Center / National Museum of American History / Smithsonian Institution

Comments are closed.