Mary McLeod Bethune, the trailblazer who fiercely fought for the interest of the black community

Stephen Nartey May 04, 2023
Mary McLeod Bethune/Photo credit: Flickr

Mary McLeod Bethune was an extraordinarily courageous woman who had a great passion for things that influenced the progress and development of the black community. She believed education was the vehicle to transform the status quo of people of African descent in the United States and increase their chance of representation on policies that affected them.

She dedicated her time to educating children in Southern schools until 1903, and relocated to the East Coast of Florida, where she identified an educational gap among the African American population compared to their White counterparts. To fix the imbalance, she solicited funds to open a school called, the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls.

However, she identified another hurdle when she established the school; there were insufficient resources to facilitate the smooth operation of the school. Mary worked effortlessly to construct a schoolhouse through the benevolence of the white and black community members.

As the school developed with time, it became necessary for it to merge with the Cookman Institute for Men to expand its scope of influence on children of African descent. Mary was made president of the college until 1942, stretching to 1946 and 1947. Under her leadership, the school was awarded full accreditation, and enrollment at the institution hit a staggering 1,000 students.

Her immense love for matters concerning African Americans was clearly evident in her works, and her passion to tackle issues concerning the black community possibly stemmed from the fact that she was a daughter of enslaved Africans.

Born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina. She trained at the Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina, in 1893 and continued to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1895, according to Britannica.  In 1935, she established the National Council of Negro Women, which she supervised until 1949. In 1936, she was appointed by President Roosevelt as the administrative assistant for Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, a post she held until 1944.

Mary was also an adviser to Roosevelt on other minority affairs and assisted the secretary of war in selecting officer candidates for the U.S. Women’s Army Corps. She was also made the Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1940 to 1955. She was married to Albertus Bethune, and passed away on May 18, 1955, at the age of 79.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: May 4, 2023


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