This Day in History: Celebrating Mary McLeod Bethune, Pioneering Educator and Civil Rights Leader

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U.S. President Harry Truman, from left, poses with Mary McLeod Bethune, retiring founder-president of the National Council of Negro Women, Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Ambassador of India to the United States, and Dr. Ralph Bunche, United Nations Director of Trusteeship, in Washington on Nov. 15, 1949. They were presented with citations for outstanding citizenship. Civil rights leader and trailblazing educator Mary McLeod Bethune has became the first Black person elevated by a state for recognition in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges, File)
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Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875. Her parents, former slaves, recognized the power of education.

In 1904, she opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School with just five students, which later became Bethune-Cookman College in 1929.

She founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 and was an influential advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on “Negro affairs.”

In 1974, she became the first Black leader and woman honored with a statue in a public park in Washington, D.C. She passed away on May 18, 1955.


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