MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE - OUR NAMESAKE
Mary McLeod Bethune was a forceful, intelligent leader who worked to improve educational opportunities for African Americans. In 1904, she opened a school for African American girls in Daytona Beach, Fla. It became a co-educational college in 1923 and is now called Bethune-Cookman College. Bethune served as its president until 1942. Bethune was advisor to Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. She was the first African American woman to head a federal agency. From 1936 to 1944, she served as director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. Bethune helped persuade the NYA to adopt nondiscrimination policies and to create a fund to aid African American graduate students and colleges. Bethune was born in 1875 in Mavesville, South Carolina. The daughter of former slaves, she attended a mission school, a seminary, and the Moody Bible Institute. Bethune was president of the National Association of Colored Women from 1924 to 1928 and, in 1935, she received the Spingam Medal. That same year, she founded the National Council of Negro Women, the first coalition of black women's organizations. Bethune died in 1955.