Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875--May 18, 1955) was an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for black students in Daytona Beach, Florida that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University and for being an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Born in South Carolina to parents who had been slaves, she took an early interest in her own education. With the help of benefactors, Bethune attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. When that did not materialize, she started a school for black girls in Daytona Beach. From six students it grew and merged with an institute for black boys and eventually became the Bethune-Cookman School. Its quality far surpassed the standards of education for black students, and rivaled those of white schools. Bethune worked tirelessly to ensure funding for the school, and used it as a showcase for tourists and donors, to exhibit what educated black people could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947, one of the few women in the world who served as a college president at that time.
Bethune was also active in women's clubs, and her leadership in them allowed her to become nationally prominent. She worked for the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and became a member of Roosevelt's Black Cabinet, sharing the concerns of black people with the Roosevelt administration while spreading Roosevelt's message to blacks, who had been traditionally Republican voters. Upon her death, columnist Louis E. Martin said, "She gave out faith and hope as if they were pills and she some sort of doctor." Her home in Daytona Beach is a National Historic Landmark, her house in Washington, D.C. in Logan Circle is preserved by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site.
This is where mentoring can pay dividends. For Dr. Bethune was a major mentor of our next notable: Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
Dorothy Irene Height (born March 24, 1912) is an African American administrator, educator, social activist, and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.
Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. She also served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Incorporated from 1946-1957. She remains active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. While there she developed leadership training programs and interracial and ecumenical education programs.
In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized "Wednesdays in Mississippi", which brought together black and white women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding. American leaders regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Height also encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government. In the mid 1960s, Height wrote a column entitled "A Woman's Word" for the weekly African-American newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News. Her first column appeared in the March 20th, 1965 issue (p. 8).
Height has served on a number of committees, including as a consultant on African affairs to the Secretary of State, the President's Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, and the President's Committee on the Status of Women. In 1974, Height was named to the National Council for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which published The Belmont Report - a response to the infamous "Tuskegee Syphillis Study" and an international ethical touchstone for researchers to this day. She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Freedom From Want Award and the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. She has also been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Mary McLeod Bethune: Building a Better World, Essays and Selected by Audrey Thomas McCluskey (Editor), Elaine M. Smith (Editor)
Mary Mcleod Bethune: Voice of Black Hope (Women of Our Time) by Milton Meltzer
Mary McLeod Bethune & Black Women's Political Activism by Joyce Ann Hanson
Mary Mcleod Bethune: Matriarch Of Black America by Earl Devine Martin
Mary McLeod Bethune by Eloise Greenfield (Author), Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)
Open Wide The Freedom Gates: A Memoir by Dorothy Height