Bethune, Mary McLeod
- Wilma Peebles-WilkinsWilma Peebles-WilkinsBoston University, Emerita
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955) was a teacher committed to the education and development of Black women. Her role as president of the National Association of Colored Women led to the founding of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935.
Mary McLeod Bethune was influential for 30 years in encouraging Black women to develop pride, self-respect, and self-control. She was born to emancipated slaves in Maysville, South Carolina. In 1894 she graduated from Scotia Seminary (now BarberScotia College), a religious and industrial school with an interracial faculty. Her courses there prepared her for teaching. For two years, she trained for missionary work at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, but because Black people were not accepted for missionary positions, she began a teaching career. The education and development of Black women was one of her deepest commitments. In 1904 Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Women (now Bethune-Cookman College) in Florida. Her role as president of the National Association of Colored Women led to the founding of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. In 1936 she became head of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration. During the New Deal, Bethune influenced policies that led to a more equitable distribution of resources within the Black community. Her leadership style of negotiation and interracial cooperation gave her national recognition among both Black and White people. When the Daytona Institute merged with the Cookman Institute for Boys, Bethune was named president of the college. She held this position until 1942. See Mary McLeod Bethune: A Biography (1964), by R. Holt; Mary McLeod Bethune (1951), by C. O. Peare; and Mary McLeod Bethune (1959), by E. M. Sterne.