Mary McLeod Bethune


Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and a civil rights activist who lived from 1875 until 1955. She was born in South Carolina to former slaves. She completed Scotia Seminary for Girls and believed that education was the key to advancing racial equality. In 1904 she founded what is today known as the Bethune-Cookman College followed by the National Council of Negro Women in the year 1935. She continued as an educator and activist until her death in 1955.

Growing up poor, she was one of seventeen children of former slaved. Everyone in her family worked in the fields in spite of being “free”. She was the only child in her family to receive an education from a nearby missionary school for African American children. She walked for miles every day to and from school and used her knowledge to educate her family when she returned. Because of her hard efforts she received a scholarship and with it she was able to attend Scotia Seminary which is a school for girls located in North Carolina. She completed her studies there in 1893 after which she went to the Moody Bible Institute located in Chicago. She completed her studies here in just two years. Once she was done with her schooling she returned to the south to begin working as an educator.

For the next decade she worked tirelessly as a teacher. She married another teacher in 1898 after which they have one son. Their marriage ended sadly in 1907. It was her belief that education was what offered the key to advancing equality between the races and that through education we could mend any differences. It was because of this belief that she founded the Bethune-Cookman College for negro girls in 1904. When the school opened it opened under a different name and had only five students. Over the next few years through her hard work and dedication she was able to grow the school to the point that it had over two hundred and fifty students. During this time she served as president for the school and to this day remains the leader. The college was one of the few in the United States that allowed African American girls to obtain a college education. Bethune continued to work with the college until 1942.

Bethune was a hard working educator and civil rights activist who worked to mend the ties between races through advanced education. She was a founder of education for African American females who offered one of the only opportunities for growth to many students.