On this day, Mary McLeod Bethune died at the age of 79. Her will, titled “My Last Will and Testament” is a commentary about her many accomplishments and life.
Bethune was a fierce educator and black leader of the 20th Century. She was born in South Carolina on July 10, 1875, to parents who previously had been slaves.
After completing her education, Bethune’s plans were to go to Africa and do missionary work. However, when she went to sign up, she was told there was no need for black missionaries in Africa. She then turned her attention to teaching. She married and moved with her husband to Savannah, Georgia where they both began doing social work.
After splitting from her husband, she founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Florida. When the school first opened, she had only five students but over time that number grew.
Through the years, Bethune got involved in politics. She participated in a conference on child welfare at the request of President Calvin Coolidge. By 1935, she was appointed as a special advisor to President Roosevelt for minority affairs. She was the founder of the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune was also active in the NAACP. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973.