Mary McLeod Bethune with a Line of Girls from the School


Mary McLeod Bethune was a pioneering American educator and civil rights leader. Born Mary Jane McLeod on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, the daughter of former slaves, Bethune won scholarships to attend Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina (now Barber-Scotia College), and the Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago (now the Moody Bible Institute). In 1904, she moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, to found her own school. Her one-room school house became the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls before merging with Cookman Institute for Boys in 1923. The merged school later affiliated with the United Methodist Church and became the historically-black college named in her honor, Bethune-Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University). In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Bethune the director of the National Youth Administration's Division of Negro Affairs, making her the first black woman to head a federal agency. She also founded the National Council of Negro Women and was an active member of the National Association of Colored Women until her death in May 1955.

Last updated: August 27, 2014