Archive for the ‘Educator’ Category

Betty Shabazz, Educator and Civil Rights Advocate   Leave a comment

Betty Shabazz (May 28, 1934a[›] – June 23, 1997), born Betty Dean Sanders[1] and also known as Betty X, was an American educator and civil rights advocate. She was the wife of Malcolm X.

Shabazz grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where her foster parents largely sheltered her from racism. She attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where she had her first encounters with racism. Unhappy with the situation in Alabama, she moved to New York City, where she became a nurse. It was in New York that she met Malcolm X and, in 1956, joined the Nation of Islam.

Along with her husband, Shabazz left the Nation of Islam in 1964. She witnessed his assassination the following year. Left with the responsibility of raising six daughters as a single mother, Shabazz pursued a higher education, and went to work at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.

Following the arrest of her daughter Qubilah for allegedly conspiring to murder Louis Farrakhan, Shabazz took in her young grandson Malcolm. He set a fire in her apartment that caused severe burns to Shabazz. Shabazz died three weeks later as a result of her injuries.

 Early years

Betty Dean Sanders was born on May 28, 1934, to Ollie Mae Sanders and Shelman Sandlin. Sandlin was 21 years old and Ollie Mae Sanders was a teenager; the couple were unmarried. Throughout her life, Betty Sanders maintained that she had been born in Detroit, Michigan, but early records—such as her high-school and college transcripts—show Pinehurst, Georgia, as her place of birth. Authorities in Georgia and Michigan have not been able to locate her birth certificate.[2]

By most accounts, Ollie Mae Sanders abused Betty Sanders, whom she was raising in Detroit. When Betty was about 11 years old, she was taken in by Lorenzo and Helen Malloy, a prominent businessman and his wife. Helen Malloy was a founding member of the Housewives League of Detroit, a group of African-American women who organized campaigns to support black-owned businesses and boycott stores that refused to hire black employees. She was also a member of the National Council of Negro Women and the NAACP.[3]

Despite their lessons on black self-reliance, the Malloys never spoke with Sanders about racism.[4] Looking back in 1995, Shabazz wrote: “Race relations were not discussed and it was hoped that by denying the existence of race problems, the problems would go away. Anyone who openly discussed race relations was quickly viewed as a ‘troublemaker.'”[5] Still, two race riots during her childhood—in 1942 when the Sojourner Truth housing project was desegregated, and one the following year on Belle Isle—made up what Shabazz later called the “psychological background for my formative years”.[6][7]

 Young adult years

After she graduated from high school, Sanders left her foster parents’ home in Detroit to study at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), a historically black college in Alabama that was Lorenzo Malloy’s alma mater. She intended to earn a degree in education and become a teacher.[8]

Nothing had prepared Sanders for Southern racism. So long as she stayed on campus, she could avoid interacting with white people, but weekend trips into Montgomery, the nearest city, would try her patience. Black students had to wait until every white person in a store had been helped before the staff would serve them—if they received any service at all. When she complained to the Malloys, they refused to discuss the issue; in a 1989 interview, Shabazz summarized their attitude as “if you’re just quiet it will go away.”[9]

Sanders’ studies suffered as a result of her growing frustration. She decided to change her field of study from education to nursing. The dean of nursing, Lillian Harvey, encouraged Sanders to consider studying in a Tuskegee-affiliated program at the Brooklyn State College School of Nursing in New York City. Against her foster parents’ wishes, Sanders left Alabama for New York in 1953.[10]

In New York, Sanders encountered a different form of racism. At Montefiore Hospital, where she performed her clinical training, black nurses were given worse assignments than white nurses. White patients sometimes were abusive toward black nurses. While the racial climate in New York was better than the situation in Alabama, Sanders frequently wondered whether she had merely exchanged Jim Crow racism for a more genteel prejudice.[11]

 Nation of Islam

During her second year of nursing school, Sanders was invited by an older nurse’s aide to a Friday-night dinner party at the Nation of Islam temple in Harlem. “The food was delicious,” Shabazz recalled in 1992, “I’d never tasted food like that.”[12] After dinner, the woman asked Sanders to come to the Muslims’ lecture. Sanders agreed. After the speech, the nurse’s aide invited Sanders to join the Nation of Islam; Sanders politely declined. The older woman told Sanders about her minister, who was not at the temple that night: “Just wait until you hear my minister talk. He’s very disciplined, he’s good-looking, and all the sisters want him.”[12]

Sanders enjoyed the food so much, she agreed to come back and meet the woman’s minister. At the second dinner, the nurse’s aide told her the minister was present and Sanders thought to herself, “Big deal.”[13] In 1992 she recalled how her demeanor changed when she caught a glimpse of Malcolm X:

Then, I looked over and saw this man on the extreme right aisle sort of galloping to the podium. He was tall, he was thin, and the way he was galloping it looked as though he was going someplace much more important than the podium. … He got to the podium—and I sat up straight. I was impressed with him.[14]

Sanders met Malcolm X again at a dinner party. The two had a long conversation about Sanders’s life: her childhood in Detroit, the racial hostility she had encountered in Alabama, and her studies in New York. He spoke to her about the condition of African Americans and the causes of racism. Sanders began to see things from a different perspective.[15] “I really had a lot of pent-up anxiety about my experience in the South,” Shabazz recalled in a 1990 interview, “and Malcolm reassured me that it was understandable how I felt.”[16]

Soon Sanders was attending all of Malcolm X’s lectures at Temple Number Seven in Harlem. He always sought her out afterwards, and he would ask her a lot of questions. He also began to pressure her to join the Nation of Islam. In mid 1956, Sanders converted. Like many members of the Nation of Islam, she changed her surname to “X”, which represented the family name of her African ancestors that she could never know.[17]

  Marriage and family

Betty X and Malcolm X did not have a conventional courtship. One-on-one dates were contrary to the teachings of the Nation of Islam. Instead, the couple shared their “dates” with dozens, or even hundreds of other members. Malcolm X frequently took groups to visit New York’s museums and libraries, and he always invited Betty X.[14]

Although they had never discussed the subject, Betty X suspected that Malcolm X was interested in marriage. One day he called and asked her to marry him, and they were married on January 14, 1958, in Lansing, Michigan.[18][19] By coincidence, Betty X became a licensed nurse on the same day.[20]

At first, their relationship followed the Nation of Islam’s strictures concerning marriage; Malcolm X set the rules and Betty X obediently followed them.[21] In 1969, Shabazz wrote that “his indoctrination was so thorough, even to me, that it has become a pattern for our [family’s] lives.”[22] Over time, the family dynamic changed, as Malcolm X made small concessions to Betty X’s demands for more independence.[23] In 1969, Shabazz recalled:

We would have little family talks. They began at first with Malcolm telling me what he expected of a wife. But the first time I told him what I expected of him as a husband it came as a shock. After dinner one night he said, “Boy, Betty, something you said hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I’ve been going along having our little workshops with me doing all the talking and you doing all the listening.” He concluded our marriage should be a mutual exchange.[24]

The couple had six daughters. Their names were Attallah, born in 1958 and named after Attila the Hun;[25] Qubilah, born in 1960 and named after Kublai Khan; Ilyasah, born in 1962 and named after Elijah Muhammad; Gamilah Lumumba, born in 1964 and named after Patrice Lumumba; and twins, Malikah and Malaak, born in 1965 after their father’s assassination and named for him.[26]

 Leaving the Nation of Islam

For more details on this topic, see Malcolm X#Leaving the Nation.

On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X announced that he was leaving the Nation of Islam.[27] He and Betty X, now known as Betty Shabazz, became Sunni Muslims.[28][29]

  Assassination of Malcolm X

Betty Shabazz in February 1965, after identifying Malcolm X’s body at the New York City Morgue

On February 21, 1965, in Manhattan‘s Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X began to speak to a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, when a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400.[30] As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot Malcolm in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun.[31] Two other men charged the stage and fired handguns, hitting him 16 times.[32]

Shabazz was in the audience near the stage with her daughters. When she heard the gunfire, she grabbed the children and pushed them to the floor beneath the bench, where she shielded them with her body. When the shooting stopped, Shabazz ran toward her husband and tried to perform CPR. Police officers, and Malcolm X’s associates, carried him to a stretcher, and brought him to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.[33]

Angry onlookers caught and beat one of the assassins, who was arrested on the scene.[34][35] Eyewitnesses identified two more suspects. All three men, who were members of the Nation of Islam, were convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.[36]

  After the assassination

Shabazz had difficulty sleeping for weeks after Malcolm X’s assassination. She suffered from nightmares in which she relived the death of her husband. She also worried about how she would support herself and her family. The publication of The Autobiography of Malcolm X helped, because Shabazz received half of the royalties.[37] (Alex Haley, who assisted Malcolm X in writing the book, got the other half. After the publication of his best-seller Roots, Haley signed over his portion of the royalties to Shabazz.[38][39])

Actor and activist Ruby Dee, and Juanita Poitier (wife of Sidney Poitier), established the Committee of Concerned Mothers, to raise funds to buy a house, and pay educational expenses for the Shabazz family. The Committee held a series of benefit concerts at which they raised $17,000.[40][41] They bought a large two-family home in Mount Vernon, New York, from Congressmember Bella Abzug.[42]

  Pilgrimage to Mecca

In late March 1965, Shabazz made the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), as her husband had the year before.[43] Recalling the experience in 1992, Shabazz wrote:

I really don’t know where I’d be today if I had not gone to Mecca to make Hajj shortly after Malcolm was assassinated. … That is what helped put me back on track. … Going to Mecca, making Hajj, was very good for me because it made me think of all the people in the world who loved me and were for me, who prayed that I would get my life back together. I stopped focusing on the people who were trying to tear me and my family apart.[44]

Shabazz returned from Mecca with a new name that a fellow pilgrim had bestowed upon her, Bahiyah (meaning “beautiful and radiant”).[45]

  Raising her family

Raising six daughters by herself exhausted Shabazz. Providing for them was difficult as well. Shabazz’s share of the royalties from The Autobiography of Malcolm X was equivalent to an annual salary. In 1966, she sold the movie rights to the Autobiography to film-maker Marvin Worth. She began to authorize the publication of Malcolm X’s speeches, which provided another source of income.[46]

When her daughters were enrolled in day care, Shabazz became an active member of the day care center’s parents organization. In time, she became the parents’ representative on the school board. Several years later, she became president of the Westchester Day Care Council.[47]

Shabazz began to accept speaking engagements at colleges and universities. She often spoke about the black nationalist philosophy of Malcolm X, but she also spoke about her role as a wife and mother.[48]

As her daughters grew older, Shabazz sent them to private schools and summer camps. They joined Jack and Jill, a social club for the children of well-off African Americans.[49]

 Advanced education

In late 1969, Shabazz enrolled at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) to complete the degree in education she left behind when she became a nurse. She completed her undergraduate studies in one year, and decided to earn a master’s degree in health administration. In 1972, Shabazz enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to pursue an Ed.D. in higher education administration and curriculum development. For the next three years, she drove from Mount Vernon to Amherst, Massachusetts, every Monday morning, and returned home Wednesday night. In July 1975, she defended her thesis and earned her doctorate.[50]

Shabazz joined Delta Sigma Theta in April 1974.[51]

  Medgar Evers College

In January 1976, Shabazz became associate professor of health sciences with a concentration in nursing at New York’s Medgar Evers College. The student body at Medgar Evers was 90 percent black, predominantly working-class, and—with an average age of 26—adult. Black women made up most of the faculty, and 75 percent of the students were female, two-thirds of them mothers. These were all qualities that made Medgar Evers College attractive to Shabazz.[52]

By 1980, Shabazz was overseeing the health sciences department, and the college president decided she could be more effective in a purely administrative position than she was in the classroom. She was promoted to Director of Institutional Advancement. In her new position, she became a booster and fund-raiser for the college. A year later, she was given tenure. In 1984, Shabazz was given a new title, Director of Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs; she held that position at the college until her death.[53]


During the 1970s and 1980s, Shabazz continued her volunteer activities. In 1975, President Ford invited her to serve on the American Revolution Bicentennial Council. Shabazz served on an advisory committee on family planning for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 1984, she hosted the New York convention of the National Council of Negro Women. Shabazz became active in the NAACP and the National Urban League.[54] When Nelson and Winnie Mandela visited Harlem during 1990, Shabazz was asked to introduce Winnie Mandela.[55]

Shabazz befriended Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, and Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. They had the common experience of losing their activist husbands at a young age and raising their children as single mothers. The press came to refer to the three, who made numerous joint public appearances, as the “Movement widows”. Evers-Williams and King were frequent guests at Medgar Evers College, and Shabazz occasionally visited the King Center in Atlanta.[56]

 Louis Farrakhan

For many years, Shabazz harbored resentment toward the Nation of Islam—and Louis Farrakhan in particular—for what she felt was their role in the assassination of her husband.[57] Farrakhan seemed to boast of the assassination in a 1993 speech:

Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours? A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats.[58][59]

In a 1994 interview, Gabe Pressman asked Shabazz whether Farrakhan “had anything to do” with Malcolm X’s death. She replied: “Of course, yes. Nobody kept it a secret. It was a badge of honor. Everybody talked about it, yes.”[60] Farrakhan denied the allegations, stating “I never had anything to do with Malcolm’s death”, although he said he had “created an atmosphere that allowed Malcolm to be assassinated.”[60]

In January 1995, Qubilah Shabazz was charged with trying to hire an assassin to kill Farrakhan in retaliation for the murder of her father.[61] Farrakhan surprised the Shabazz family when he defended Qubilah, saying he did not think she was guilty and that he hoped she would not be convicted.[62] That May, Betty Shabazz and Farrakhan shook hands on the stage of the Apollo Theater during a public event intended to raise money for Qubilah’s legal defense.[63] Some heralded the evening as a reconciliation between the two, but others thought Shabazz was doing whatever she had to in order to protect her daughter. Regardless, nearly $250,000 was raised that evening. In the aftermath, Shabazz maintained a cool relationship with Farrakhan, although she agreed to speak at his Million Man March that October.[64]

Qubilah accepted a plea agreement with respect to the charges, in which she maintained her innocence but accepted responsibility for her actions.[63] Under the terms of the agreement, she was required to undergo psychological counseling and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for a two-year period in order to avoid a prison sentence.[65] For the duration of her treatment, Qubilah’s ten-year-old son, Malcolm, was sent to live with Shabazz at her apartment in Yonkers, New York.[66]


On June 1, 1997, young Malcolm set a fire in Shabazz’s apartment. Shabazz suffered burns over 80 percent of her body, and remained in intensive care for three weeks, at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York.[66][67] She underwent five skin-replacement operations as doctors struggled to replace damaged skin and save her life. Shabazz died of her injuries on June 23, 1997.[68] Malcolm Shabazz was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter and arson.[69][70]

The gravesite of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz in Ferncliff Cemetery

More than 2,000 mourners attended a memorial service for Shabazz, at New York’s Riverside Church. Many prominent leaders were present, including Coretta Scott King and Myrlie Evers-Williams, poet Maya Angelou, actor-activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, New York Governor George Pataki, and four New York City mayors—Abraham Beame, Ed Koch, David Dinkins, and Rudy Giuliani. U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman delivered a tribute from President Bill Clinton.[71] In a statement released after Shabazz’s death, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said, “She never stopped giving and she never became cynical. She leaves today the legacy of one who epitomized hope and healing.”[72]

Shabazz’s funeral service was held at the Islamic Cultural Center in New York City. Her public viewing was at the Unity Funeral Home in Harlem; the same place where Malcolm X’s viewing had taken place 32 years earlier. Shabazz was buried next to her husband, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.[73]


In late 1997, the Community Healthcare Network renamed one of its Brooklyn, New York, clinics the Dr. Betty Shabazz Health Center, in honor of Shabazz.[74][75] The Betty Shabazz International Charter School was founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1998 and named in her honor.[76] In 2005, Columbia University announced the opening of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. The memorial is located in the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated.[77] In April 2011, the local Community Board recommended co-naming West 165th Street, the street in front of the Audubon Ballroom, Betty Shabazz Place


Posted February 29, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Civil Rights, Educator

Dr. Benjamin Solomon, “Ben” Carson, Presidential Medal of Freedom   2 comments

Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr., M.D., (born September 18, 1951) is an American neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Early lifeCarson was born in Detroit, Michigan and was raised by his single mother, Sonya Carson. He struggled academically throughout elementary school, but started to excel in middle school and throughout high school. After graduating with honors from his high school, he attended Yale University, where he earned a degree in Psychology. He chose to go to Yale because in College Bowl, an old TV channel, he saw Yale compete against and defeat many other colleges in knowledge, including Harvard. Ben wanted to participate in College Bowl, but the channel was stopped. From Yale, he attended University of Michigan Medical School, where his interest shifted fervently encouraged him to read books so that he could gradually gain knowledge.

CareerCarson’s excellent eye-hand coordination and three-dimensional reasoning skills made him a gifted surgeon [1]. After medical school he became a neurosurgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After starting off as an adult neurosurgeon Carson became more interested in pediatrics; the investment of operating on children satisfied him more than the investment on operating on adults. With children he believed that “what you see is what you get,”[2] when they’re in pain they clearly show it with a frown on their face or when they are happy they show it by smiling brightly. He realized that the investment from spending enormous amount of time on operating on children resulted in adding fifty to sixty years to their life compared to the investment from spending the same amount of time on operating on adults and those patients dying less than ten years due to other complications. Realizing this, he switched into the pediatric department and since then has been the head of pediatric neurosurgeon department and successfully completed many operations [3]. At age 33, he became the hospital’s youngest major division director, as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Carson’s other surgical innovations have included the first intrauterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherectomy, in which a young girl suffering from uncontrollable seizures had one half of her brain removed.

In 1987, Carson made medical history by being the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate siamese twins (the Binder twins) conjoined at the back of the head (craniopagus twins). Operations to separate twins joined in this way had always failed, resulting in the death of one or both of the infants. Carson agreed to undertake the operation. The 70-member surgical team, led by Carson, worked for 22 hours. At the end, the twins were successfully separated and can now survive independently. Carson recalls:

“ “I looked at that situation. I said, ‘Why is it that this is such a disaster?’ and it was because they would always exsanguinate. They would bleed to death, and I said, ‘There’s got to be a way around that. These are modern times.’ This was back in 1987. I was talking to a friend of mine, who was a cardiothoracic surgeon, who was the chief of the division, and I said, ‘You guys operate on the heart in babies, how do you keep them from exsanguinating’ and he says, ‘Well, we put them in hypothermic arrest.’ I said, ‘Is there any reason that — if we were doing a set of Siamese twins that were joined at the head — that we couldn’t put them into hypothermic arrest, at the appropriate time, when we’re likely to lose a lot of blood?’ and he said, ‘No way .’ I said, ‘Wow, this is great.’ Then I said, ‘Why am I putting my time into this? I’m not going to see any Siamese twins.’ So I kind of forgot about it, and lo and behold, two months later, along came these doctors from Germany, presenting this case of Siamese twins. And, I was asked for my opinion, and I then began to explain the techniques that should be used, and how we would incorporate hypothermic arrest, and everybody said ‘Wow! That sounds like it might work.’ And, my colleagues and I, a few of us went over to Germany. We looked at the twins. We actually put in scalp expanders, and five months later we brought them over and did the operation, and lo and behold, it worked.”[4] ”

Awards and honorsBen Carson has received numerous honors and many awards over the years, including over 61 honorary doctorate degrees. He was also a member of the American Academy of Achievement, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Yale Corporation (the governing body of Yale University), and many other prestigious organizations. He sits on many boards including the Board of Directors of Kellogg Company, Costco Wholesale Corporation, and America’s Promise. He was also the president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. In 2007, Carson was inducted into the Indiana Wesleyan University Society of World Changers and received an honorary doctorate while speaking at the university. He returned to IWU the following year when his friend, Tony Dungy, was also inducted into the society.[5] On June 19, 2008, Carson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He is a recipient of the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal and the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, and was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the United States National Academy of Sciences

Publications and appearancesCarson has written four bestselling books published by Zondervan, an international Christian media and publishing company: Gifted Hands, The Big Picture, Take the Risk, and Think Big. The first book is an autobiography and two are about his personal philosophies of success that incorporate hard work and a faith in God; Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist. In a debate with Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, and Daniel Dennett, Carson stated he doesn’t believe in evolution: “I don’t believe in evolution…He says that because there are these similarities, even though we can’t specifically connect them, it proves that this is what happened.”[6]

A video documentary about Carson’s life titled Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was released by Zondervan in 1992. Subsequently in 2009, a separate television movie with the identical title premiered on TNT on February 7, 2009, with Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead role and Kimberly Elise portraying his mother.[7]

Personal lifeIn June 2002 Carson was forced to cut back on his public appearances when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but the cancer was caught in time. Since then Carson has cut back on his schedule. He still operates on more than 300 children a year but has been trying to shorten his days: prior to his cancer he used to work from 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. Now, he tries to leave the hospital at 6:15 P.M. This gives him more time to spend with his wife and three children.[8]

Carson married Candy Rustin—whom he met at Yale—in 1975 She is an accomplished musician, and both are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian denomination. They have three sons, Murray, Benjamin Jr., and Rhoeyce.[9]

Posted February 25, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Educator, Scientists / Innovator

Bill Gray, CEO of The United Negro College Fund   Leave a comment

William Herbert Gray III (born August 20, 1941) served as president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund (1991–2004). He was an influential member of the United States House of Representatives in the 1980s serving as the Majority Whip until his resignation.[1] As an African-American, he was the fourth highest ranking member of the House at the time of his resignation and a minister in Philadelphia. He is currently co-founder of the government lobbying and advisory firm, Gray Loeffler LLC, headquartered in Washington D.C[2]

 Early life

He was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but grew up in St. Augustine, Florida, where his father was president of Florida Normal (later Florida Memorial) College, and in North Philadelphia where he graduated from Simon Gratz High School. He attended Franklin and Marshall College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1963. He went on to obtain a master’s in divinity from Drew Theological Seminary in 1966 and a similar degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970. Gray received a L.H.D. from Bates College in 1994.

Professional life

In 1972, he succeeded his father as the senior minister at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He was elected as a Democrat to represent Philadelphia in the United States House of Representatives in 1978. He represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1978 until his resignation on September 11, 1991. He was the first African-American to chair the House Budget Committee and also the first to serve as the Majority Whip (1989–1991). As chairman of the Committee on Budget, Gray introduced H.R. 1460, an anti-Apartheid bill that prohibited loans and new investment in South Africa and enforced sanctions on imports and exports with South Africa. This bill was an instrumental precursor to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 (H.R. 4868).

Gray resigned from Congress in 1991 to serve as President of the United Negro College Fund from 1991 to 2004. He served as a special adviser to the President and Secretary of State for Haitian affairs in 1994. He was named to the PoliticsPA list of “Pennsylvania’s Top Political Activists.”[3]

Outside of politics he is also a businessman who has been a Director at Dell from 2000. He is also a director of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Prudential Financial Inc., Rockwell International Corporation, Visteon Corporation and Pfizer. He retired from Bright Hope Baptist Church in 2007 and was succeeded by Kevin R. Johnson, former Assistant Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. He currently works for the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Washington, DC.


He is married to the former Andrea Dash; they have three sons, William IV, Justin and Andrew. Gray is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Posted February 17, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Educator, Politicians

Marian Wright Edelman, American Activist for the rights of Children   Leave a comment

Marian Wright Edelman (born June 6, 1939) is an American activist for the rights of children. She is president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.


Early years

In 1953, her father died when she was 14, urging in his last words, “Don’t let anything get in the way of your education.”

She attended Marlboro Training High School there, and went on to Spelman College and traveled the world on a Merrill scholarship and studied in the Soviet Union as a Lisle fellow. She also became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and after being arrested for her activism, she decided to study law and enrolled at Yale Law School J.D. 1963.


Edelman was the first African American woman admitted in the Mississippi Bar when she began practicing law out of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.‘s Mississippi office. During her time in Mississippi, she worked on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and represented activists throughout the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. She also helped get a Head Start program established in her community.[2]

Edelman moved in 1968 to Washington, D.C. where she continued her work and contributed to the organizing of the Poor People’s Campaign of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and also became interested in issues related to childhood development and poverty-stricken children.[2]

In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund as a voice for poor, minority and disabled children. The organization has served as an advocacy and research center for children’s issues, documenting the problems and possible solutions to children in need. To keep the agency independent, she saw that it was financed entirely with private funds.[2]

As founder, leader and principal spokesperson for the CDF, Mrs. Edelman worked to persuade Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve child care and protect children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected. A philosophy of service absorbed during her childhood under-girds all her efforts. As she expresses it, “If you don’t like the way the world is, you have an obligation to change it. Just do it one step at a time.”[3]

She continues to advocate youth pregnancy prevention, child-care funding, prenatal care, greater parental responsibility in teaching values and curtailing children’s exposure to the barrage of violent images transmitted by mass media.[3]

Edelman serves on the board of the New York City based Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty.

 Personal life

It was in 1967, during a tour by Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark of Mississippi’s poverty-ridden Delta slums, that she met Peter Edelman, an assistant to Kennedy. They married on July 14, 1968. Edelman and her husband, a Georgetown law professor, have three sons, Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra. Joshua is an educational administrator; Jonah has a Ph.D. from Oxford and works in education advocacy; and Ezra is television producer.

Posted February 17, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Civil Rights, Educator

Lerone Bennett, African American Scholar, Historian   Leave a comment

Lerone Bennett, Jr. (born 17 October 1928) is an African-American scholar, author and social historian, known for his revisionist analysis of race relations in the United States. His works include “When the Wind Blows” and “History of Us”.


Bennett was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of Lerone Bennett, MR. and Alma Reed. When he was young, his family moved to Jackson, Mississippi.

Bennett graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He has noted this time was integral to his intellectual development. Mr. Bennett is also a distinguished member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

He is most notable for his decades as executive editor for Ebony Magazine, to which he was promoted in 1958. It has served as his base for the publication of a steady stream of articles on African-American history, some of them collected into books.

In addition Bennett has written several books, including numerous histories of the African-American experience. These include his first work Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962 and Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream. The former discusses the contributions of African Americans in the United States. The latter questions President Abraham Lincoln‘s role as the “Great Emancipator“.

  Marriage and family

He married Gloria Sylvester on July 21, 1956. They had four children together: Alma Joy, Constance, Courtney, and Lerone III.


Honorary degrees from Morehouse College, Wilberforce University, Marquette University, Voorhees College, Morgan State University, University of Illinois, Lincoln College, and Dillard University.


  • Pioneers In Protest : Black Power U.S.A.
  • The Shaping of Black America
  • Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962 (1962)
  • What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King
  • Confrontation: Black and White (1965)
  • Black Power U.S.A.: The Human Side of Reconstruction 1867-1877 (1967)
  • Pioneers In Protest (1968)
  • The challenge of Blackness (1972)
  • Wade in the Water: Great Moments in Black History (1979)
  • Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream (2000), Johnson. Publ. Co.

Posted February 17, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Educator, Uncategorized

Carter Goodwin Woodson, Historian and Journalist   Leave a comment

Carter Godwin Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950)[1] was an African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Woodson was one of the first scholars to study African American history. A founder of Journal of Negro History (now titled The Journal of r. Woodson has been cited as the father of black history.[2]


Carter G. Woodson was born December 19, 1875, the son of former enslaved Africans, James and Elizae Riddle Woodson. His father helped Union soldiers during the Civil War, and he moved his family to West Virginia when he heard that Huntington was building a high school for blacks. Coming from a large, poor family, Carter Woodson could not regularly attend school. Through self-instruction, Woodson mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects by age 17.

Wanting more education, Carter went to Fayette County to earn a living as a miner in the coal fields. He was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895, at age 20, Woodson entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years. From 1897 to 1900, Woodson taught in Fayette County. In 1900 he was selected as the principal of Douglass High School. He earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903 by taking classes part-time between 1901 and 1903.

From 1903 to 1907, Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later, he attended the University of Chicago, where he was awarded an A.B. and A.M. in 1908. He was a member of the first black fraternity Sigma Pi Phi and a member of Omega Psi Phi.[3] He completed his Ph.D. in history at Harvard University in 1912, where he was the second African-American (after W.E.B. DuBois) to earn a doctorate.[4] His doctoral dissertation,The Disruption of Virginia, was based on research he did at the Library of Congress while teaching high school in Washington, D.C. After earning the doctoral degree, he continued teaching in the public schools, later joining the faculty at Howard University as a professor, where he served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


Convinced that the role of his own people in American history and in the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson realized the need for research into the neglected past of African Americans. Along with Alexander L. Jackson and three aswas the year Woodson published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861. His other books followed: A Century of Negro Migratiinues to be published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

His final professional appointment in West Virginia was as the Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University, from 1920–22.

He studied many aspects of African-American history. For instance, in 1924, he published the first survey of free white slaveowners.


Woodson became affiliated with the Washington, D.C. branch of the NAACP, and its chairman Archibald Grimké. On January 28, 1915, he wrote a letter to Grimké expressing his dissatisfaction with activities. Woodson made two proposals:

  1. That the branch secure an office for a center to which persons may report whatever concerns the black race may have, and from which the Association may extend its operations into every part of the city; and
  2. That a canvasser be appointed to enlist members and obtain subscriptions for The Crisis, the NAACP magazine edited by W. E. B. Du Bois.

W. E. B. Du Bois added the proposal to divert “patronage from business establishments which do not treat races alike,” that is, boycott businesses. Woodson wrote that he would cooperate as one of the twenty-five effective canvassers, adding that he would pay the office rent for one month. Grimke did not welcome Woodson’s ideas.

Responding to Grimke’s comments about his proposals, on March 18, 1915, Woodson wrote,

“I am not afraid of being sued by white businessmen. In fact, I should welcome such a law suit. It would do the cause much good. Let us banish fear. We have been in this mental state for three centuries. I am a radical. I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me.”[citation needed]

His difference of opinion with Grimké, who wanted a more conservative course, contributed to Woodson’s ending his affiliation with the NAACP.

Roadside historical marker biography of Woodson

[edit] black people History Month

After leaving Howard University because of differences with its president,[citation needed] Dr. Woodson devoted the rest of his life to historical research. He worked to preserve the history of African Americans and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He noted that African American contributions “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”[5] Race prejudice, he concluded, “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”[6]

In 1926, Woodson pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week”, designated for the second week in February, to coincide with marking the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.[7] The week of recognition became accepted and has been extended as the full month of February, now known as Black History Month.

[edit] Colleagues

Woodson believed in self-reliance and racial respect, values he shared with Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican activist who worked in New York. Woodson became a regular columnist for Garvey’s weekly Negro World.

Woodson’s political activism placed him at the center of a circle of many black intellectuals and activists from the 1920s to the 1940s. He corresponded with W. E. B. Du Bois, John E. Bruce, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Hubert H. Harrison, and T. Thomas Fortune among others. Even with the extended duties of the Association, Woodson made time to write academic works such as The History of the Negro Church (1922), The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933), and others which continue to have wide readership.

Woodson did not shy away from controversial subjects, and used the pages of Black World to contribute to debates. One issue related to West Indian/African American relations. Woodson summarized that “the West Indian Negro is free.” He observed that West Indian societies had been more successful at properly dedicating the necessary amounts of time and resources needed to educate and genuinely emancipate people. Woodson approved of efforts by West Indians to include materials related to Black history and culture into their school curricula.

Woodson was ostracized by some of his contemporaries because of his insistence on defining a category of history related to ethnic culture and race. At the time, these educators felt that it was wrong to teach or understand African-American history as separate from more general American history. According to these educators, “Negroes” were simply Americans, darker skinned, but with no history apart from that of any other. Thus Woodson’s efforts to get Black culture and history into the curricula of institutions, even historically Black colleges, were often unsuccessful. Today African-American studies have become specialized fields of study in history, music, culture, literature and other areas; in addition, there is more emphasis on African-American contributions to general American culture. The United States celebrates Black History Month.

[edit] Woodson’s legacy

That schools have set aside a time each year, to focus upon African American history, is Dr. Woodson’s most visible legacy. His determination to further the recognition of the Negro in American and world history, however, inspired countless other scholars. Woodson remained focused on his work throughout his life. Many see him as a man of vision and understanding. Although Dr. Woodson was among the ranks of the educated few, he did not feel particularly sentimental about elite educational institutions.[citation needed] The Association and journal which he started in 1915 continue, and both have earned intellectual respect.

Woodson’s other far-reaching activities included the founding in 1920 of the Associated Publishers, the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States. This enabled publication of books concerning blacks which may not have been supported in the rest of the market. He founded Negro History Week in 1926 (now known as Black History Month). He created the Negro History Bulletin, developed for teachers in elementary and high school grades, and published continuously since 1937. Woodson also influenced the Association’s direction and subsidizing of research in African-American history. He wrote numerous articles, monographs and books on Blacks. The Negro in Our History reached its eleventh edition in 1966, when it had sold more than 90,000 copies.

Dorothy Porter Wesley stated that “Woodson would wrap up his publications, take them to the post office and have dinner at the YMCA.” He would teasingly decline her dinner invitations saying, “No, you are trying to marry me off. I am married to my work”. Dr. Woodson’s most cherished ambition, a six-volume Encyclopedia Africana, lay incomplete at his death on April 3, 1950 at the age of 74. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.

[edit] Legacy and honors

In 1992, the Library of Congress held an exhibition entitled “Moving Back Barriers: The Legacy of Carter G. Woodson”. Woodson had donated his collection of 5,000 items from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries to the Library.

His Washington, D.C. home has been preserved and designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Carter G. Woodson on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[8]

[edit] Selected bibliography

File:History of the Negro Church.jpg

Second edition of The History of the Negro Church (1921)
  • The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915)
  • A Century of Negro Migration (1918)
  • The History of the Negro Church (1921)
  • The Negro in Our History (1922)
  • Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830, Together With Absentee Ownership of Slaves in the United States in 1830 (1924)
  • Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830, Together With a Brief Treatment of the Free Negro (1925)
  • Negro Orators and Their Orations (1925)
  • The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800-1860 (1927)
  • Negro Makers of History (1928)
  • African Myths, Together With Proverbs (1928)
  • The Rural Negro (1930)
  • The Negro Wage Earner (1930)
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933)
  • The Negro Professional Man and the Community, With Special Emphasis on the Physician and the Lawyer (1934)
  • The Story of the Negro Retold (1935)
  • The African Background Outlined: Or, Handbook for the Study of the Negro (1936)
  • African Heroes and Heroines (1939)

Posted February 17, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Civil Rights, Educator, Slavery

Mary McLeod Bethune, Civil Rights Leader, Educator   Leave a comment


Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 – May 18, 1955) was an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African American students in Daytona Beach, Florida, that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University and for being an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Born in South Carolina to parents who had been slaves and having to work in fields at age five, she took an early interest in her own education. With the help of benefactors, Bethune attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. When that did not materialize, she started a school for African American girls in Daytona Beach. From six students it grew and merged with an institute for African American boys and eventually became the Bethune-Cookman School. Its quality far surpassed the standards of education for African American students, and rivaled those of schools for white students. Bethune worked tirelessly to ensure funding for the school, and used it as a showcase for tourists and donors, to exhibit what educated African-Americans could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947, one of the few women in the world who served as a college president at that time.

Bethune was also active in women’s clubs, and her leadership in them allowed her to become nationally prominent. She worked for the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and became a member of Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet, sharing the concerns of black people with the Roosevelt administration while spreading Roosevelt’s message to blacks, who had been traditionally Republican voters. Upon her death, columnist Louis E. Martin said, “She gave out faith and hope as if they were pills and she some sort of doctor.”[1] Her home in Daytona Beach is a National Historic Landmark,[2] her house in Washington, D.C. in Logan Circle is preserved by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site,[3] and a sculpture of her is located in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.[4]

Early life

The cabin in Mayesville, South Carolina where Mary McLeod was born

Mary Jane McLeod was born near Mayesville, South Carolina on a rice and cotton farm, in a small log cabin, the fifteenth of seventeen children to Samuel and Patsy McIntosh McLeod, both former slaves.[5][6][7] Most of her siblings were born into slavery. Her mother worked for her former owner, and her father farmed cotton near a large house they called “The Homestead.”

After demonstrating a desire to read and write, McLeod attended Mayesville’s one-room schoolhouse, Trinity Mission School that was run by the Presbyterian Board of Missions of Freedmen. Her teacher, Emma Jane Wilson, became a significant mentor in her life.[8] Wilson had attended Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), so arranged for McLeod to attend the same school on a scholarship, which she did from 1888-1894. She then attended Dwight L. Moody‘s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago (now the Moody Bible Institute), hoping to become a missionary in Africa. However, she was told that she would not be able to go because black missionaries were not needed, so she instead planned to teach.[7]

She married Albertus Bethune in 1898 and they subsequently lived in Savannah, Georgia for a year while she did some social work. She was persuaded by a visiting Presbyterian minister named Coyden Harold Uggams (grandfather of entertainer Leslie Uggams) to relocate to Palatka, Florida to run a mission school.[9] She did so in 1899 and began an outreach to prisoners and ran the mission school. Albertus left the family in 1907 and did not seek a divorce, but relocated to South Carolina. He died in 1918.[10]

Career as an educator

Foundations with Lucy Craft Laney

Bethune’s first position as a teacher was for a brief time at her former elementary school in Sumter County. In 1896, she began teaching at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia which was part of a Presbyterian mission. It was founded and run by Lucy Craft Laney who impressed upon Bethune the foundations for her pedagogy. Laney was a former slave and ran her school with a Christian missionary zeal, emphasizing character and practical education for girls, but also accepted the boys who showed up on the steps of her school eager to learn. Laney’s mission was to better the perception that black people must fight their image of living with “shame and crime” through Christian moral education. Bethune spent only a year at Laney’s school, but said of her experience, “I was so impressed with her fearlessness, her amazing touch in every respect, an energy that seemed inexhaustible and her mighty power to command respect and admiration from her students and all who knew her. She handled her domain with the art of a master.”[11]

Bethune was influenced deeply by Laney and adopted many of her educational philosophies seeking to improve the conditions of black people by educating primarily women: “I believe that the greatest hope for the development of my race lies in training our women thoroughly and practically.”[12] After one year at Haines, Bethune was transferred to the Kindell Institute in Sumter, South Carolina, where she had met her husband.

School in Daytona

Mary McLeod Bethune with girls from the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona, c. 1905.

In October 1904, she rented a small house for $11.00 per month, making benches and desks out of discarded crates and obtaining items through charity. During this year Bethune used $1.50 to start the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona. She had six students—five girls aged six to twelve, and her son, Albert. Bethune chose Daytona because its economic opportunities held more possibilities than Palatka: Daytona had become a popular tourist destination. The school bordered Daytona’s dump, and Bethune, parents, and church members raised money by making sweet potato pies, ice cream, and fried fish and selling them to construction crews. Ink for pens was made from elderberry juice, pencils from burned wood, and they scrounged local businesses for furniture. Bethune wrote later, “I considered cash money as the smallest part of my resources. I had faith in a loving God, faith in myself, and a desire to serve.”[13] The school received donations of money, equipment, and labor from local black churches. Bethune also courted wealthy white organizations like the ladies’ Palmetto Club and asked powerful white men to sit on the board of the school; these included James Gamble (of Procter & Gamble) and Thomas White (of White Sewing Machines). A 1912 visit from Booker T. Washington helped to impress upon her the importance of appealing to white benefactors.[8] Bethune had first gone to see Washington in 1896 and was impressed by his clout with his donors. She later recalled a dream she had of Washington where he showed her a soiled handkerchief and pulled from it a large diamond and said, “Here, take this and build your school.”[14]

Curriculum at the school started as a rigorous Christian life, having girls rise at 5:30 a.m. for Bible Study, classes in home economics and other industrial skills such as dressmaking, millinery, cooking, and other crafts that emphasized a life of self-sufficiency. Students’ days ended at 9 pm. Soon science and business courses were added, then high school courses of math, English, and foreign languages.[11]

Group photo of students at the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, taken about 1919.

In 1910, the enrollment of the school rose to 102, most of them being boarders.[10] The success of the school was measured in its growing enrollment, addition of higher education courses, and the value of the school reaching $100,000 by 1920, with an enrollment of 351 students.[8] Bethune renamed the school the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute and included courses to prepare teachers because she was finding difficulty staffing the school. The school merged with the Cookman Institute for Men from Jacksonville, Florida and became co-educational in 1923 and the value of the school’s eight buildings was reassessed at $250,000. The curriculum of the Bethune-Cookman School rivaled the segregated Daytona High School. In contrast, the Daytona Colored Public School neglected to provide education past the eighth grade until after 1920. An agent of the General Education Board noted that “Daytona is probably the best school for Negroes in Florida.”[10]

However, Bethune constantly found it necessary to search for more funding; almost everywhere she went in her travels she begged for money for the school. A donation by John D. Rockefeller in 1905 for $62,000 helped, as did her friendship with the Roosevelts. Through the Great Depression, the school was able to function meeting the educational standards of the State of Florida. From 1936 to 1942 she served only part-time as president of the college as she had duties in Washington, DC, and the lower funding reflected her absence.[10] By 1942 Bethune was forced to give up the presidency of the school as it had begun to affect her health.

Career as a public leader

National Association of Colored Women

In 1896, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was formed to promote the dual needs of black women. Bethune served as the Florida chapter president of the NACW from 1917 to 1925 and made it a mission to register as many black voters as possible, which prompted several visits from the Ku Klux Klan.[7][10] Bethune served as the president of the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs from 1920 to 1925, an organization that served to amplify black women’s voices for better opportunities. Her presence in the organization earned her the NACW national presidency in 1924. Despite the NACW being underfunded, Bethune’s vision of the organization having a headquarters with a professional executive secretary came to fruition under her leadership when the organization purchased a Washington DC property at 1318 Vermont Avenue (with half the mortgage paid). Just prior to her leaving the presidency of the NACW, she saw it become the first black-controlled organization represented in Washington, DC.

She was invited to attend the Child Welfare Conference called by President Calvin Coolidge in 1928. In 1930 Herbert Hoover appointed her to the White House Conference on Child Health.

National Council of Negro Women

Mary McLeod Bethune enters the White House c. 1950.

Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in New York City in 1935 bringing together 28 different organizations to form a council to facilitate the improvement of quality of life for women and their communities. About the organization, Bethune stated: “It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and best in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy.”[15] In 1938, the NCNW hosted the White House Conference on Negro Women and Children significantly displaying the presence of black women in democratic roles. They claimed their biggest impact came in getting black women into military officer roles in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.[10]

National Youth Administration

The National Youth Administration (NYA) was a federal agency created with the support of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Its purpose was to provide programs to promote relief and employment for young people. It focused on citizens aged sixteen to twenty-five years who no longer had regular attendance in school and did not have paid employment.[16] Bethune lobbied the organization so aggressively and effectively for minority involvement that she earned herself a full-time staff position in 1936 as an assistant. Within two years, Bethune was appointed to position of Director of the Division of Negro Affairs, and as such, became the first African-American female federal agency head.[17] She was responsible for releasing NYA funds to help black students through school based programs. She was the only black agent of the NYA who was releasing funds. She made sure that black colleges participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which graduated some of the first black pilots.[10] Awed by her accomplishments, the director of the NYA, said in 1939 of Bethune, “No one can do what Mrs. Bethune can do.”[18]

Bethune’s determination helped national officials recognize the need for advancing the employable conditions for black youth. The NYA’s final report, issued in 1943, stated that, “more than 300,000 black young men and women were given employment and work training on NYA projects. These projects opened to these youth, training opportunities and enabled the majority of them to qualify for jobs heretofore closed to them.”[16] Within the administration, Bethune used her position as Director of Negro Affairs to advocate for the appointment of black NYA officials to positions of political power. Bethune’s administrative assistants were numerous and served as liaisons between the National Division of Negro Affairs and the NYA agencies on the state and local levels. The high number of administrative assistants made up a reasonable work force commanded by Bethune. This attributed to better job and salary opportunities elsewhere.[17] During her tenure Bethune also pushed national executives to approve a program of consumer education for blacks, a foundation for black crippled children and planned for a compile of studies pertaining to black workers’ education councils. However, these programs were rejected by national officials due to inadequate funding and fear of duplicating the work of private governmental agencies.[17] The NYA was terminated in 1943.

Black Cabinet

Bethune played a dual role as close and loyal friend of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt respected Bethune to the extent that the segregation rules at the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in 1938, being held in Birmingham, Alabama, were changed on Roosevelt’s request so she could sit next to Bethune. Roosevelt frequently referred to Bethune as “her closest friend in her age group.”[19] Bethune, in her turn took it upon herself to disperse the message of the Democratic Party to black voters, and make the concerns of black people known to the Roosevelts at the same time. She had unprecedented access to the White House through her relationship with the First Lady. She used it to form a coalition of leaders from black organizations called the Federal Council on Negro Affairs, but which came to be known as the Black Cabinet.[10] The role of the Black Cabinet was to serve as an advisory board to the Roosevelt administration on issues facing black people in America. It gathered talented blacks in positions within federal agencies, creating the first collective of black people enjoying higher positions in government than ever before. It also served to show to voters that the Roosevelt administration cared about black concerns. The group gathered in Bethune’s office or apartment and met informally, rarely keeping minutes. Although as advisers they had little role in creating public policy, they were a respected leadership among black voters and were able to influence political appointments and disbursement of funds to organizations that would benefit black people.[20]🙂

Civil Rights

When the Methodist Church facilitated the merging of the Daytona Normal and Industrial School and the Cookman College for Men into Bethune-Cookman College, Bethune became a member of the church. However, the church was largely segregated in the South, forming two separate denominations. Bethune was prominent in the primarily black Florida Conference, and though she worked to integrate the mostly white Methodist Episcopal Church, South, she protested initial plans for integration because they required separate jurisdictions based on race.[21]

She dedicated her life to the education of both whites and blacks about the accomplishments and needs of black people, writing in 1938, “If our people are to fight their way up out of bondage we must arm them with the sword and the shield and buckler of pride – belief in themselves and their possibilities, based upon a sure knowledge of the achievements of the past.”[22] and a year later, “Not only the Negro child but children of all races should read and know of the achievements, accomplishments and deeds of the Negro. World peace and brotherhood are based on a common understanding of the contributions and cultures of all races and creeds.”[23]

One of her most effective methods of reaching this goal was to open her school on Sundays to tourists in Daytona Beach, showing off the accomplishments of her students, hosting national speakers on black issues, and taking donations. These Community Meetings were deliberately integrated. One black teenager in Daytona at the turn of the 19th/20th century remembers that as the most impressive aspect: “Many tourists attended, sitting wherever there were empty seats. There was no special section for white people.”[18]

On the turnover of Plessy v Ferguson by the U.S. Supreme Court, Bethune took the opportunity to defend the decision by writing her opinion in the Chicago Defender in 1954:

There can be no divided democracy, no class government, no half-free county, under the constitution. Therefore, there can be no discrimination, no segregation, no separation of some citizens from the rights which belong to all… We are on our way. But these are frontiers which we must conquer… We must gain full equality in education …in the franchise… in economic opportunity, and full equality in the abundance of life.


In 1930, journalist Ida Tarbell included Bethune as number 10 on her list of America’s greatest women.[7][8] Bethune was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1935 by the NAACP.[24] Mary McLeod Bethune was the only black woman present at the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, representing the NAACP with W. E. B. Du Bois and Walter White. In 1949 she became the first woman to be given the Medal of Honor and Merit at the Haitian Exposition, Haiti‘s highest award.[25] She served as the US emissary to the induction of President William V.S. Tubman of Liberia in 1949. She was also an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.[26]

On May 18, 1955, Bethune died of a heart attack. Her death was followed by editorial tributes in newspapers all over America. The Oklahoma City Black Dispatch stated she was, “Exhibit No. 1 for all who have faith in American and the democratic process.” The Atlanta Daily World said her life was, “One of the most dramatic careers ever enacted at any time upon the stage of human activity.” And in the Pittsburgh Courier, it was stated, “In any race or nation she would have been an outstanding personality and made a noteworthy contribution because her chief attribute was her indomitable soul.” The mainstream press praised her as well. Christian Century suggested, “the story of her life should be taught every school child for generations to come.” The New York Times noted she was, “one of the most potent factors in the growth of interracial goodwill in America.” The Washington Post read, “So great were her dynamism and force that it was almost impossible to resist her… Not only her own people, but all America has been enriched and ennobled by her courageous, ebullient spirit.” Her hometown newspaper, the Daytona Beach Evening News printed, “To some she seemed unreal, something that could not be… What right had she to greatness?… The lesson of Mrs. Bethune’s life is that genius knows no racial barriers.”[10]

Personal life

Painting of Bethune by Betsy Graves Reyneau

Bethune stood five feet four inches tall and cut a matronly figure even in her 30s. Unlike other black personalities who were effective in part for their lighter skin, Bethune was notable for how dark her skin actually was; she was often described as “ebony” in complexion. She carried a cane with her, not for support but for effect. She said it gave her “swank”. She was a teetotaler and preached temperance for African Americans, taking opportunities to chastise drunken blacks she encountered in public.[10] Bethune stated more than once that the school and the students in Daytona were her first family and that her son and extended family came second. Her students often referred to her as “Mama Bethune.”

Her effectiveness in getting what she wanted was duly noted throughout her life. Dr. Robert Weaver, who served with her on Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet said of her, “She had the most marvelous gift of effecting feminine helplessness in order to attain her aims with masculine ruthlessness.”[27] But when a white Daytona resident threatened Bethune’s students who walked in front of his home with a Winchester rifle, Bethune made it a priority to assuage his anger. The director of the McLeod Hospital recalled that, “Mrs. Bethune treated him with courtesy and developed such goodwill in him that we found him protecting the children and going so far as to say, ‘If anybody bothers old Mary, I will protect her with my life.'”[28]

Self-sufficiency was a high priority throughout her life. Bethune invested in several businesses in her life including the Pittsburgh Courier, a black newspaper, and several life insurance companies, one of which she began: Central Life Insurance of Florida. When blacks were not allowed to visit the beach, she and several other business owners invested in Paradise Beach, purchasing a 2-mile (3.2 km) stretch of beach and the surrounding properties, splitting it up and selling it to black families, and allowing white families to visit. Paradise Beach was later renamed to Bethune-Volusia Beach. She also was a part of the Welricha Motel in Daytona, of which she was one-fourth owner.[18][29]


In 1973, Mary McLeod Bethune was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.[30] In 1974, a sculpture was erected in her honor in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C. by sculptor Robert Berks. Engraved in the side is a passage from her “Last Will and Testament”:

I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you, finally, a responsibility to our young people.

Approximately 250,000 people attended the unveiling ceremony, including Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress.[31]

In 1985 the US Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor.[32] In 1989 Ebony Magazine listed her on their list of “50 Most Important Figures in Black US History”, and named her again in 1999, Ebony Magazine included Mary McLeod Bethune as one of the 100 Most Fascinating Black Women of the 20th century.[33] In 1991, the International Astronomical Union named the Bethune Patera on planet Venus in her honor.[34] In 1994, the National Park Service acquired Bethune’s last residence,[35] the Council House at 1318 Vermont Avenue, NW: the headquarters for the NACW. It became the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.[3]

Schools are named in her honor in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Palm Beach, Florida, Moreno Valley, California, Minneapolis, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Folkston and College Park, Georgia, New Orleans, Rochester, New York, and Jacksonville, Florida. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Mary McLeod Bethune on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[36]

In 2004, Bethune-Cookman University celebrated its 100-year anniversary. It currently sits on 82.2 acres (333,000 m2) in Daytona Beach. There are now 40 buildings that educate more than 3,000 students from almost every state in the United States and 35 countries, and the school is located on Mary Mcleod Bethune Boulevard, which was once 2nd Avenue. The university offers 35 majors in six major colleges: arts and humanities, business, education, nursing, social science, and science engineering. The university’s website contends that, “the vision of the founder remains in full view over one-hundred years later. The institution prevails in order that others might improve their heads, hearts, and hands.”[37] The university’s vice president recalled her legacy in saying, “During Mrs. Bethune’s time, this was the only place in the city of Daytona Beach where Whites and Blacks could sit in the same room and enjoy what she called ‘gems from students’—their recitations and songs. This is a person who was able to bring Black people and White together.”[38]

There is a historical marker in Mayesville, Sumter County, South Carolina commemorating her birthplace.

Posted February 16, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Civil Rights, Educator