MARY McLEOD BETHUNE

MARY McLEOD BETHUNE

1875-1955

Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the Daytona Normal and Industrial School,was bom the 15th child, but the first free child, of her family in Mayesville, South Carolina. From the beginning she was a fiercely hard worker, picking cotton, wash¬ ing and ironing, and walking five miles to school each day. It was her job to bring home everything she learned and teach it to her brothers and sisters. This may have been the single most effective training Mary McLeod Bethune had in the value of education.

Mary attended Scotia Seminary on a scholarship, but graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. In 1904, she and her new husband, teacher Albertus Bethune, moved to Daytona, Florida and Mary began to plan the school she would one day build.In 1904, on a piece of land used mainly for dumping, Bethune put down a five dol¬ lar payment and promised to buy the land outright for $200.00 in two years’ time.

She then went to work educating five little girls and her own son Albert, and by the time the bill was due on the land, Bethune had 250 students. The Daytona Normal and Industrial School, which later joined the coedu¬ cational Cookman Institute to form the Bethune-Cookman College, was firm¬ ly established.

Dedicated to education and civil rights, and specifically that of African- American women, Bethune gave a life¬ time to the formation and organization of groups like the powerful National Council of Negro Women (1935) and the National Youth Administration (NYA), which US President Franklin Roosevelt asked her to advise as the Director of Negro Affairs.

She was also a member of the National Associ¬ ation of Colored Women (NACW), which she aligned with the primarily white International Council ofWomen.Working ultimately with five United States presidents, Bethune’s leadership became a respected and highly prized asset. She made sure the Women’s Army Auxil¬ iary Corps allotted 10 percent of its officer candidate spaces to blacks.

She befriended both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and was able to secure federal funding for voca¬ tional training and jobs for African-Ameri¬ can youth. She secured funds for black housing projects in Florida, forced John Hopkins Hospital to hire African-American doctors, and appealed to Franklin Roosevelt on behalf of Jewish victims during the per¬ secution of World WarE.

Throughout her life, Bethune worked wholeheartedly for the increased power of African-Americans in United States policy and served those ends by offering opportu¬ nity, education and dignity.