Wednesday, February 17, 2016



   While not strictly "unknown" to people in this country, Mary McLeod Bethune was much more than a woman who opened a private school for young African American women in Daytona Florida.  One highlight for me was that she worked for the Roosevelt Administration -- "But she had the most significant influence on Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Government. From 1936-1945 she served as the informal "race leader at large" for the administration. Mrs. Bethune was also one of the most influential African American leaders in the Black Cabinet, which organized the Federal Council on Negro Affairs. She also served as Director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration, where she tirelessly worked to help young people find jobs and to secure funds for youth."   as did my father who knew her well. My father set up the National Youth Administration.  So I feel that she was a family friend, even though I never was able to meet her.  [My father also hired Lyndon Johnson for his first Federal job at the NYA.]

   Mary McLeod Bethune was born in 1875 and died in 1955.  "Equal parts educator, politician, and social visionary, Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the most prominent African American women of the first half of the twentieth century--and one of the most powerful. Known as the "First Lady of the Struggle," she devoted her career to improving the lives of African Americans through education and political and economic empowerment, first through the school she founded, Bethune-Cookman College, later as president of theNational Council of Negro Women, and then as a top black administrator in the Roosevelt administration."  [Eleanor Roosevelt papers project ]  

   A summary of her work in government:   "In 1935, Bethune became a special advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs. That same year, she also started up her own civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune created this organization to represent numerous groups working on critical issues for African-American women. She received another appointment from President Roosevelt the following year. In 1936, she became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. One of her main concerns in this position was helping young people find job opportunities. In addition to her official role in the Roosevelt administration, Bethune became a trusted friend and adviser to both the president and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt."
   On biography - her role internationally was incredible:  "An early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she helped represent the group at the 1945 conference on the founding of the United Nations along with W.E.B. DuBois. In the early 1950s, President Harry Truman appointed her to a committee on national defense and appointed her to serve as an official delegate to a presidential inauguration in Liberia."
   Her influence was far and wide, deep and strong.  "Since her passing, Bethune has been honored in many ways. In 1973, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with her likeness in 1985. In 1994, the U.S. Park Service bought the former headquarters of the NCNW. The site is now known as the Mary Mcleod Bethune Council House National Historic Site."


Civil Rights Leader -   National Council of Negro Women, which she founded.
Mary McLeod Bethune at the Eleanor Roosevelt papers project
Biography - 

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