July 1991

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Educator

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was born near Mayesville, South Carolina on July 10, 1875. She was the 15th of 17 children of Patsy and Samuel McLeod. Her parents were slaves who were freed as a result of the Civil War. The McLeods were poor but very proud of the their African heritage. Mary Bethune’s education started at a small, three month Presbyterian School near Mayesville. In 1888 with the help of a scholarship from the Presbyterian Church, she attended Scotia Seminary (Barber-Scotia College) and graduated in 1893. She graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1895. While teaching at Kindress Institute near Sumpter, South Carolina, she met and married Albertus Bethune. They had one son, Albert McLeod Bethune. They lived in Savannah, Georgia and Palatka, Florida, where their marriage ended in 1904. Mrs. Bethune and her son moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, where in 1904 she embarked on a dream to establish a school for Black children. With $1.50, five little girls and her son Albert, she formed the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Girls. The school flourished. In 1926, it merged with Cookman Institute and in 1929, the co-educational institution became Bethune-Cookman College. Mrs. Bethune served as an advisor on racial affairs to Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. In 1934, she became Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. She viewed her job as that of interpreting the needs of African-Americans to government agencies. In 1937, she founded the National Council for Negro Women. The “Council’s House,” located in Washington, DC, is now a national historic site. She was an observer for the US State Department at the United Nations Conference on International Organizations in 1945. Shortly before her death in 1955, she wrote her Last Will and Testament. Among her words of wisdom were: “I Leave You Love. Love builds. It is positive and helpful. It is more beneficial than hate. Injuries quickly forgotten quickly pass away. Personally and racially, our enemies must be forgiven. Our aim must be to create a world of fellowship and justice where no man’s skin, color, or religion, is held against him. ‘Love thy neighbor’ is a precept which could transform the world if it were universally practiced. It connotes brotherhood and, to me, brotherhood of man is the noblest concept in all human relations. Loving your neighbor means being interracial, inter-religious and international.”