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Education and Civil Rights Leader: Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955)

“I never stop to plan. I take things step by step.”

Mary McLeod Bethune left her mark on education and on women’s rights. She was an educator, civil rights leader, and government official who founded the National Council of Negro Women and Bethune-Cookman College. You can read more about her contributions to black education here.

For Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Government she served as the informal “race leader at large,” making her one of the most influential African-American leaders in the Black Cabinet, which led the Federal Council on Negro Affairs.

Bethune became the first black leader and the first woman to have a monument, the Bethune Memorial Statue, in 1974 in a public DC park. In 1994, she became the only black woman to be given a memorial site in the nation’s capital when National Park Service took control of the Council House, Bethune’s last official residence and NCNW’s original headquarters.

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