Black Educational Pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune Honored With a Statue at the U.S. Capitol

Each of the 50 states is now permitted to choose who will represent the state in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Recently, a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune was unveiled to represent the state of Florida. She is the first African American to represent a state in the National Statuary Hall. Previously, the state of Florida was represented by statue of Confederate General  Edmund Kirby Smith.

Mary McLeod Bethune was born in South Carolina to parents who had been enslaved. She worked picking cotton before attending Barber-Scotia College in North Carolina and the Moody Bible Institute in Illinois. In 1904 Bethune opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls on land that had once been a city dump that she purchased for $1.50. This school grew and merged to become what is now historically Black Bethune-Cookman University.

In 1924, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs elected her president. She also served as the founding president of the National Council of Negro Women. Dr. Bethune served as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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