If there were a Mount Rushmore for African-Americans, Mary McLeod Bethune would definitely be on there. She is hailed as one of the most influential African-American educators and Civil Rights figures, during the first half of the 20th century.
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was born on July 10th, 1875, on a cotton farm in Mayesville, South Carolina, the 15th out of 17 Children born to Samuel and Patsy McIntosh McLeod, former slaves. Deeply religious and achieving academically…young Mary knew that there was something powerful about education that she wanted to master.
Mary studied at the Scotia Seminary for girls, which is now historically Black Barber-Scotia College, in Concord, North Carolina. After years teaching in Georgia and South Carolina, Mary decided she wanted a school of her own. She moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, and with just one dollar, and fifty cents ($1.50), built The Bethune Institute for Girls, which later merged with the nearby Cookman Institute for Boys, and became what we know today, as historically Black Bethune-Cookman University.
Mary used Bethune Cookman College as her base, to be involved in Women’s Work, politics, and Civil Rights. Mary McLeod Bethune attracted donations of time and money, and developed the academic school as a college. It later continued to develop as Bethune-Cookman University. She also was appointed as a national adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of what was known as his Black Cabinet.
She was known as "The First Lady of The Struggle" because of her commitment to gain better lives for African Americans.