Mary McLeod Bethune was originally set on being a missionary. But when she was told, upon finishing missionary school, that Black missionaries weren't needed, she turned her sights to education, which was a primary goal for Black folks of her time. She is a graduate of Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), which was originally a women's seminary, and she went on to found Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls -- the predecessor to what is now Bethune-Cookman University. She also co-founded the United Negro College Fund and raised money for scholarships for Black students attending historically Black colleges and universities. Not too bad for the daughter of formerly enslaved parents, who were prohibited by law from learning to read.
In addition to being an educator and a school founder, Mary McLeod Bethune also opened the first Black hospital in Daytona, Florida.A master fundraiser, she raised money not only to advance the school, but to help pay the poll taxes and literacy test fees for Black folks in the town so they could vote.
Bethune became close friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, and used her access to the First Lady to form an advisory board comprised of Black leaders who advised the president on the concerns and affairs of Black people. She was the highest ranking African American woman in government when President Franklin Roosevelt named her director of Negro Affairs, and in 1945, she was the was the only woman of color at the founding conference of the United Nations
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Mary McLeod Bethune was born to parents who weren't permitted to read. She grew up to be a leader in education and said, "the whole world opened up to me when I learned how to read." What is your favorite book? Does it show you a whole new world that is different from your own?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
Why do you think Mary McLeod Bethune said world peace and brotherhood are based on a common understanding of the contributions and cultures of all races and creeds? Do you agree or disagree?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
When you think about your time in school, how well do you think your education has reflected this idea that children of all races benefit from learning Black history -- the history of all races and creeds? How much would you say you have learned about Black history since your kindergarten year? Has it matched what you have learned about European history? Have you learned about the contributions of Black Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans?
What ways are you working to teach Black history -- and the history of all of those whose contributions have helped to shape America -- year-round? Are you relegating these discussions of people to other cultures to designated weeks or months, or are you working to incorporate the achievements and accomplishments of diverse people into all of your lessons?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.