How Mary McLeod Bethune Changed History

You would think that trying to single-handedly change the face of African-American education would be enough of a challenge for anyone to take on. For Mary McLeod Bethune, however, her accomplishments in education, while impressive, were not enough for her. She took on more adversity when she became an activist for both women and minorities.

According to Biography, Bethune contributed to American society in various capacities. She was the president of the National Association of Colored Women for years before using her expertise in multiple roles in government. She served under many presidents, including Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry Truman. Her most notable contribution, however, happened when she worked with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1935 Bethune became President Roosevelt’s advisor on minority affairs and started her own civil right organization the same year, the National Council of Negro Women. The following year she was also appointed director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. Bethune was a trusted advisor and friend of both FDR and his wife, Eleanor (pictured with Bethune, above)  and also eventually became an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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