- NAME: Mary McLeod Bethune
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: July 10, 1875
- DEATH DATE: May 18, 1955
- EDUCATION: Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (now Moody Bible Institute)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Mayesville, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: Daytona, Florida
- Originally: Mary Jane Mcleod
- AKA: Mary McLeod Bethune
- Full Name: Mary Jane McLeod Bethune
- AKA: Mary Mcleod
- AKA: Mary Bethune
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Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and activist, serving as president of the National Association of Colored Women and founding the National Council of Negro Women.
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In 1935, Bethune became a special advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs. That same year, she also started up her own civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune created this organization to represent numerous groups working on critical issues for African-American women. She received another appointment from President Roosevelt the following year. In 1936,
she became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. One of her main concerns in this position was helping young people find job opportunities. In addition to her official role in the Roosevelt administration, Bethune became a trusted friend and adviser to both the president and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt.
One of the nation's leading educators and activists, Mary Mcleod Bethune spent much of the rest of her life devoted to social causes after leaving Bethune-Cookman College in 1942. She took up residence at its new National Council of Negro Women headquarters in a Washington, D.C., townhouse in 1943 and lived there for several years. An early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she helped represent the group at the 1945 conference on the founding of the United Nations along with W.E.B. DuBois. In the early 1950s, President Harry Truman appointed her to a committee on national defense and appointed her to serve as an official delegate to a presidential inauguration in Liberia.
Eventually returning to Florida in her retirement, Bethune died on May 18, 1955, in Daytona, Florida. She remembered for her work to advance the rights of both African Americans and women. Before her death, Bethune penned "My Last Will and Testament," which served as a reflection on her own life and legacy in addition to addressing a few estate matters. Among her list of spiritual bequests, she wrote "I leave you a thirst for education. Knowledge is the prime need of the hour." Bethune closed with 'If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving."
Since her passing, Bethune has been honored in many ways. In 1973, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with her likeness in 1985. In 1994, the U.S. Park Service bought the former headquarters of the NCNW. The site is now known as the Mary Mcleod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.
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