hidden figures: mary mcleod bethune, an educator, innovator and founder of bethune-cookman university

February 9, 2017
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Ever heard of the historically Black college Bethune-Cookman University in Florida? Well the woman behind its founding is Mary McLeod Bethune, the educator, philanthropist, and all around badass Black woman. Born in South Carolina in 1875 to former slaves, she went to work in the fields as early as the age of five, but always had the desire and intention to become educated. While her initial goal was to become a missionary in Africa, she eventually opened an all girls school in Daytona Beach, Florida. After merging with an all boys school, it became known to the world as Bethune-Cookman School and eventually became a college. At the time, Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the only women in the world to serve as the president of a university. Because of her involvement in the election campaign, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave her a position on his Black Cabinet. Beyond that, she was awarded Spingarn medal by the NAACP in 1935, the only Black woman present at the founding of the United Nations in 1945, and she received Haiti’s highest honor, National Order of Honour and Merit, in 1949. Her resume speaks volumes to the sheer brilliance, tenacity, and foresight that she had, and her commitment to education carries forward today in each of the graduates of Bethune-Cookman University. Mary McLeod Bethune is a hidden figure no more.

By T. McLendon, AFROPUNK Contributor