Death of Mary McLeod Bethune, educator/activist
May 18, 1955
Death of Mary McLeod Bethune (79), educator and civil rights leader, Daytona Beach, Florida.
Mary McLeod Bethune was the fifteenth of seventeen children of Samuel and Patsy McLeod, slaves on the McLeod Plantation in Mayesville, South Carolina. Born after the Emancipation, Mary McLeod was a free woman. Seeing the overriding importance of real freedom and equality, she became a powerful force in the emerging struggle for civil rights. Beginning as an educator and founder of a school which bears her name, she became the valued counselor to four presidents, the director of a major government agency, the founder of a major organization for human rights (the National Council of Negro Women), and a consultant to world figures seeking to build universal peace through the United Nations.
Mrs. Bethune obtained prominence as an educator. She Founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904, and served as president from 1904-1942 and from 1946-47. Her work, building the Daytona Normal School for Negro Girls into Bethune-Cookman College, brought her into contact with important political and financial figures. Under President Cavin Coolidge, and later Herbert Hoover, the national government began utilizing Mrs. Bethune's considerable experience for the National Child Welfare Commission.. However, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who recognized the important role Mary McLeod Bethune could play in the implementation of his "New Deal" policies. Roosevelt created the office of Special Advisor on Minority Affairs in 1935. This position later became a part of the National Youth Administration (NYA).
Was a leader in the black women's club movement and served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. Was a delegate and advisor to national conferences on education, child welfare, and home ownership.Was Director of Negro Affairs in the the National Youth Adminstration from 1936 to 1944. Served as consultant to the U.S. Secretary of War for selection of the first female officer candidates. Appointed consultant on interracial affairs and understanding at the charter conference of the U.N. Founder of the National Council of Negro Women. Vice-president of the NAACP. Was awarded the Haitian Medal of Honor and Merit, that country's highest award. In Liberia she received the honor of Commander of the Order of the Star of Africa.