Know Your History: Mary McLeod Bethune

A marble statue of civil rights pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune is replacing one of a Confederate general in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall, making history as the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue in that particular hall. This is the perfect time to honor Bethune, and educate you about her life’s work in this week’s “Know Your History.” The National Statuary Hall Collection features two statues from each state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the replacement of the General Edmund Kirby Smith statue in 2019. US Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida said, “Dr. Bethune embodies the very best of the Sunshine State — Floridians and all Americans can take great pride in being represented by the great educator and civil rights icon.” The 11-foot-tall statue of Bethune, which was unveiled Monday in Daytona Beach, Florida, will be on display in Daytona Beach through December before it makes its way to the US Capitol in early 2022. Who is Mary McLeod Bethune? Born in Mayesville, South Carolina, to parents who had been slaves, she started working in fields with her family at age five. She took an early interest in becoming educated, and with the help of benefactors, attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. She started a school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida which later merged with a private institute for African-American boys and was known as the Bethune-Cookman School. Bethune maintained high standards and promoted the school with tourists and donors to demonstrate what educated African Americans could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942, and 1946 to 1947. She was one of the few women in the world to serve as a college president at that time. Bethune founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935, established the organization’s flagship journal Aframerican Women’s Journal, and resided as president or leader for myriad African American women’s organizations including the National Association for Colored Women and the National Youth Administration’s Negro Division. She also was appointed as a national adviser to president Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom she worked with […]

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