Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina in a small log cabin. She was the fifteenth of seventeen children. Her parents were slaves, and she began working in the fields at just five years of age. This motivated her to take a very special interest in her education. Once she proved she could read and write, she was allowed to attend a one-room schoolhouse run by the Presbyterian Board of Missions of Freedman. Her teacher at the school became an important mentor in her life.
When Mary’s plans to become a missionary in Africa did not work out, she decided to teach and eventually relocated to Florida to run a mission school. Her teaching successes were recognized, and she soon grew a school in Daytona Beach for African American students that rivaled those of schools for white students. It was used as a showcase to exhibit what educated African Americans could accomplish.
Bethune was also very active in women’s clubs and worked for the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt for President in 1932. She became a member of Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet to share the concerns of black people with the Roosevelt administration.
Upon her death in May of 1955, Mary McLeod Bethune was known for the great faith and hope she instilled in her fellow African Americans. She was a great educator and civil rights leader.
We, at Bethune School in Phoenix, are proud to have our school named for Mary McLeod Bethune.