Mary McLeod Bethune, photographed
by Carl Van Vechten, April 6, 1949
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 - May 18, 1955) was born in Mayesville, South Carolina and died in Daytona Beach, Florida. A U.S. educator born to former slaves, she made her way through college and in 1904 founded a school that later became part of Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla. She was president of the college from 1923–42 and 1946–47. Prominent in African-American organizations, particularly women's groups, she directed the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration (1936–44). Bethune worked for the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and attempted to get him to support a proposed law against lynching. Although the Costigan-Wagner bill was not passed, they did raise more public awareness of the lynching issue. She was also a member of Roosevelt's Black Cabinet. Her house is preserved by the National Park Service as Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, and a significant sculpture of her is located in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC.
Hear Mary McLeod Bethune speak about "The Power of Education," free from the New York Public Library.