Mary McLeod Bethune: Renowned Educator, Political Activist, Presidential Advisor
Advisor to President Roosevelt and civil rights leader, Mary McLeod Bethune, left a legacy of education and political reform. Margaret Miles, Park Ranger at the National Park Service Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site discusses Mary McLeod Bethune’s life, political leadership, and founding of the National Council of Negro Women and Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls (Bethune-Cookman College).
Margaret Miles: Thank you. It is my indeed pleasure. I'm a little raspy sounded today. But it is my indeed pleasure to give you some information on Mary McLeod Bethune, which as you see the title of our slide "Legendary Mary McLeod Bethune," the things that she accomplished within her lifetime is still in effect to this day.
So the PowerPoint presentation that I put on today is when I give you a good overview of her life and her accomplishments within – not only here in America but also international. She had an international presence also. And again, as the site, the National Park Service incorporated the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, it became the 287th National Park Service site fully established in October 1, 1995.
However, Congress designated the House of National Historic site in 1982. At that time, the site became an affiliate unit of the National Park Service, and then in October 1, 1995, it became a full pledged unit of the National Park Service. So now, let's take a look at who this amazing woman was that is considered legendary.
Now this is the beginning of her life and this is Mary Jane's parents. She was born Mary Jane McLeod long before she was a Bethune, July 10, 1875 to former slaves, Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh McLeod. Mary was the 15th of their 17 children. Her family operated a small cotton farm on land they purchased after emancipation and it was five miles outside of Mayesville and south, 12 miles from Sumter, South Carolina.
Her father had grown up on a McLeod plantation. Of course, they were emancipated when the 13th Amendment had been passed and not far from the McIntosh farm where Patsy, her mother, grew up. And the two were joined in marriage before emancipation. How about that?
Mary Jane, her early years, she grew up amidst the poverty and oppression of the Reconstructed South because when she was born in 1875 that was the end of the reconstructed – at the end of the Reconstruction era. Yet by her attending the following schools, she had started out in 1882 attending the Presbyterian Mission School. Because you remember after the 13th Amendment had been signed, most southern states were slow about setting up education for blacks, and so the churches took it upon themselves.
And in this case, it was the Presbyterian Church who would dispatch a pastor and a teacher to this particular rural area.
They would go in and find a one-room house and they would set it up as a school. So Bethune in the first beginning of education, she was a recipient of a mission school education. Later, she attended the Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina and then she attended the Moody Bible Institute for a year.
Now this was made possible because after she had finished that small mission school there were no more educational opportunities in that area, and basically they thought the basics – reading, writing and arithmetic – and more values that would have come from the Bible.
A Quaker seamstress by the name of Mary Crismond paid for seven years for Mary to attend the scholarship seminary in Concord, North Carolina and an additional year at the Moody Bible Institute. Mary wanted to be a missionary and she wanted to go to Africa. She noticed – have you ever noticed people within your life or that you've come across and you've seen them and you were so impressed by them?
And you said, "Ooh, I want to be like when I grow up. When I get older I want to." And she saw those missionaries and how their pleasant attitude and how nice they were to people then doing their jobs, and she said, "That's how I want to be one when I get older." So she wanted to be a missionary and she wanted to go to Africa.
However, after graduating from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, there were no opportunities for her at that time for her to go to Africa. One, Moody wasn't sending any blacks to Africa at that time. Neither was the Presbyterian Church. But the AME Zion, who sent blacks to Africa as early as 1830 would have never sent a woman by themselves. The church code was you sent them out two by two and the two by two would have been a pastor-and-his-wife delegation and so others could accompany.
Do you remember the movie Color Purple?
Female Audience: Yeah.
Margaret Miles: And you remember in the Color Purple how Celie's sister got to go to Africa. She was with that husband-and-wife delegation and that's how delegations were sent out with that pastor and his wife.
Now this is the examples of some mission schools that were set up in the south. The Presbyterian Church was very big about setting up – that was one of their missions of setting up various schools. And there were strings of schools from North Carolina, South Carolina and so on where the Presbyterian Church would go in, set up mission schools and these were some of the examples of what a mission school would have looked like during that time, in the late 1800s.
OK, Mary marries Albertus Bethune. Mary joined noted educator Lucy Craft Laney – excuse me – at the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia in 1896.
She was sent there by the Presbyterian Church to assume the 8th grade class. It was under Miss Laney's tutelage that Mary McLeod – that Mary realized the power of education. Mary, she encouraged her to start her own school. She was transferred again after working with Miss Laney for a while to the Kindell Institute in Sumter, South Carolina.
So it was like you work in one mission school for a while and this time she was a teacher and she was teaching, and so she went on again after Lucy Laney. And they had so much in common. I would say that Miss Laney was her mentor. She was the one who encouraged her because, also Miss Laney, wanted to go to Africa. She also was denied. There was no opportunities for her and just simply said, "Jesus, look, the greatest for Negroes in America is not in Africa. It's right here in America and I suggest you do what I did – start a school."
And so after she had gotten to the Kindell Institute in Sumter, South Carolina, this is where she met the handsome Albertus Bethune. And they courted for about a year and was married in early May of 1898. And of course, nine months later, Mary gave birth to a baby boy on February 3rd, 1899, and they named him Albert Bethune.
Early school years, consumed with a desire to help others, she set about finding a place to teach with only $1.50 in her pocket. Through prayer, determination, unbounded faith, on October 4th, 1904, she opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls. The school grew quickly and she set out to find a larger place.
So when she first started out her school, it was in her living room. It was in her house. It was in her house and she got so many children so fast, so quick and fast, because that was a large economic boom in Daytona Beach at this time. The East Coast railroad was being built and there was a large influx of blacks that had flocked to Daytona to get a job, to work on that railroad so they could save their money and buy a homestead.
But there were no education opportunities for black children around 1904 in the state of Florida. And so, Bethune was determined, so she set out looking for a larger place for her school. She found her luck on Second Avenue in Daytona Beach, Florida. The owner was asking $250 for the lot. That was a lot of money during that time.
To raise that money she, by night, baked and made sweet potato pies and she sold it to the railroad workers there in Daytona Beach, Florida.
And you see the photograph here of the men laying tracks, and so when they would take a break, Mary was standing there with her sweet potato pies. And they now would buy them from her.
Now the school receives help any time you embark on any endeavor that's much larger than you. And usually you know that's – you're going to need some help. These were the three men that helped Bethune, not only built her school but get accreditation that the school needed as it advanced.
Also she convinced Thomas H. White, President of White Sewing Machine company; John D. Rockefeller, President of Standard Oil; and James Gamble, one of the founders of Procter and Gamble. They had summer homes in the Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach area. And she convinced them to be her board of directors and trustees.
She was very convincing. James Gamble called her – he loved her directness and her drive. He was so impressed with her ideas, even with John D. Rockefeller. After she had bought that lot for $250, there was nothing on the lot. And she had painted, had someone to paint her sign. It said the "Future Home of a School".
Now John D. Rockefeller saw Mrs. Bethune in a hotel with her girls putting on a program, and he was so impressed with her. He says, "I got to come and see where you're doing all these fine work." And so Bethune said, "OK," and he had agreed to pay for the girls' education. So she said, "Come right on."
So when the day he visited her school, he couldn't believe it, the house where she had started out in. Then she took into the empty lot where she had someone to paint that sign to say "Future Home" of her school.
And she then literally just talked to him about "Over there is going to be the girls' dormitory," "Over there is going to be the school library," "That building is going to be the administration," "We're going to be have an infirmary."
And she just laid the whole plan out to him about what she wanted and where she wanted it strategically placed on that lot. And he, you know, I guess he was standing in this class and he said "This woman can describe all those. I'm going to help her." And he did. He began to help her to get grant monies and so forth and so did the other two men as they were board of directors of her school.
Now this is Faith Hall. This is the first building on the new property. Now this was the property she had bought on Second Avenue where the school is currently located today. So this was the early beginnings of the first building that she had there and she called it "Faith Hall". The school becomes a college. There's a lot between these two pictures.
Here you see what the modernized Faith Hall looked like. The other picture was the early beginnings of Faith Hall. The men – Mr. Rockefeller and Gamble – and then also, she convinced the board of directors – school board directors and Floridians that blacks could learn. People then began to help her to fulfill the dream that she had of starting this school.
This was taken – it had to be around the early '30s because in 1900 – let's say 1900 – when she started the school out, it was an elementary school. You notice the name of the school. It's not here. It's called the Bethune-Cookman College at that time. And people say, "Cookman, where in the world that Cookman come from?"
Well, Cookman had the all-boys school that was located in Jacksonville, Florida. It was started around before Reconstruction. It was an experimental school to see how Negro boys would take to education.
While the school was a success, but after – and we've suffered the same faith to this day. After the government gives you money for a certain period of time, they then expect you to find your own funding, so funding is cutback. Bethune heard about the school predicament and the schools then became around 1923 merged to become one school and so that's where Cookman comes from.
Now Cookman – his name was Alfred Cookman. He was a Methodist minister. He believed that his goal in life, his mission in life was to educate Negro boys. When the school had opened for the Cookman Institute, Alfred Cookman had died. But most people remember "Oh, we're going to start a school. It was in Jacksonville, Florida." "Ooh, we're going to start a school for Negro boys. Isn't that wonderful?" And people said, "Ooh, what are we going to name it?"
And then people said, "You know what? We can name it anything else but the Cookman Institute."
They named it after Alfred Cookman because of his passion, because of his belief that Negro boy should be educated. So that's where Cookman came from. But again, he was dead when the school had died, when the school had opened but because of his fervor while he was alive, they named the institution after him.
And so in '23, the two schools merged and then 1930, they became a two-year junior college; 1942, they then received the accreditation to be a four-year liberal arts college there in Daytona Beach, Florida.
This is a picture of Mrs. Bethune's home which sets on the college campus. It was purchased and renovated by a man, by the name of James Gamble and Thomas White—two of her start supporters. In fact, the administrative building on the school's university campus to this day bears his name.
It's called "White Hall" and that was named after Thomas White, who was President of the White Sewing company. He was so impressed of Mrs. Bethune. He just philanthropically just helped her in any endeavors that she needed and he also was a board of director.
You see here, her office there at the top and then you see at the bottom where she seated at the desk in one of the rooms upstairs, on the second floor. The photo gallery that you see that's behind her is some of the most "Who's Who" in America—some of the most important people who loved Bethune, support her and sent her autographs, photographs.
And you see one of Theodore Roosevelt – oh, not excuse me – Franklin D. Roosevelt and some other really famous people, Madam C.J. Walker, and a few others that had helped her, believed in her vision and dream, and sent them photographs of themselves.
So basically here, if you have to get the opportunity to go, so if you're taking your family today to Disneyland there in Orlando, stop and see their home because the house where we are, you see the organizational side at the Park Service, the 287 Park Service site. That's the organizational side of Mary McLeod Bethune.
When you go to Dayton Beach, you see her home there. That's the personal side of her. I mean, some of the most "Who's Who" you will see—John D. Rockefeller Mother's China in the China Cabinet. And you'll see some of the most amazing things that Mrs. Bethune accumulated over her life that some really famous people gave her, for her comfort. And they wanted to be a part of her life.
And so, she also had a "famous men walking cane" collection, which you will not see at the Council House or in our Archives, but they're in the school library. One of the most famous canes in that collection belonged Frankin D. Roosevelt. After he died, he gave – Eleonor Roosevelt gave Mary McLeod Bethune the famous silver-tipped cane that Theodore Roosevelt gave to Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was assistant secretary to the Department of Navy. So the cane got the story relevance on its own.
And so it belongs to the college. And I know last year there was a travelling trunk of educational pieces, outstanding educational pieces and artifacts. That cane was borrowed and it was in that travelling trunk.
Now we skip forward to 1935. Now, Mrs. Bethune was the founder and president of the Bethune-Cookman College up to 1942.
She stepped down in 1942 to do other things. But here, December 5th, 1935, Mary McLeod Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women. As it says here the American women, 14 African-American women organizations, they met in the 137 Street YWCA in New York City.
Bethune was the catalyst and this is what she was thinking. It was time to stop being a benevolent organization so she was the catalyst to take the black women's organizations from being a benevolent organizations to be a lobbyist. She recognized that nothing was going to change for black women in America until the issues would take on a national and international level.
And this is what she did with the National Council of Negro Women. For the first nine years of the life of the National Council of Negro Women, she rented again out of the living room of her house.
She lived on 9th and West Ministry street here in Washington, DC, Northwest. And so for the first nine years, that's where the Council would hold their meetings and their deliberations and all of that. In 1943, they purchased the Council House and that became the first headquarters for the National Council of Negro Women.
Some of the issues of the National Council of Negro Women addressed were consumer rights, day care centers, education, employment, health, historical development, housing, international relations, poverty and racism. I mean, when they first started out, you know how sometimes you start out with organization and do something you start tiptoeing a little bit , just ease in your way into a phase you know getting people to know who you were. But these ladies took on some of the most controversial issues of the day.
One, they had a anti-lynching campaign where they would sit down in the board room of that Council House and they would deliberate over how they were going to stop lynchings in the south where they did not live.
And what they would do? They would have plan A, plan B, and all kinds of plans and they would go to Mississippi, and they would make appointments with groups of white women. And they would basically say message to these ladies were, "You know what? We're here today to talk to you about stop lynching. I don't know if you're aware of that that you're violating these people's civil liberties."
Now there were women and children and black men lynch but the majority was black men and some of the most gruesome things took place with lynching. Has any of you been to the "Blacks In Wax" in Baltimore? Did you remember that lynching room?
Female Audience: Yes.
Margaret Miles: And they don't allow children to go in that room. But the things that would have taken place before the lynching actually finished, was absolutely gruesome.
So if you ever have a time and you really want to know a little something something, visit the "Blacks In Wax Museum" in Baltimore. They did an excellent job in depicting what lynchings and so they even have a man and a woman and what they would do to the both of them when they were lynched.
And so Bethune and those ladies, they would then say "Well, you know what? You violated these men's civil liberties and if you don't stop, you'd taken a law into your own hand. You, yourselves, need to be charged as murderers." Now you know they got a little huffed at and all but by the time that they'd be able to get their message over and they would leave but there were instances that after they would talk to those groups of people and they would come back to the north or wherever they were from.
The people would then be afraid because they would not want to take the stance they had to take, and so some of them went just for naught but it didn't stop them from doing what they had to do to get that word out.
This is what you need to do. You need to stop that type of behavior. And so those were some of the things that they did. You see here on the right with the column of pictures, of course, Mary McLeod Bethune would have been the first president and founder of the National Council of Negro Women.
She was from 1935 to 1949. She was president for the first 14 years. The second president, the woman right below her, her name is Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee. She was a medical doctor here in Washington, DC area. She was a general practitioner. She taught at Howard University and she served on many international help panels around the globe.
She would have been the second president, not Dorothy Height. A lot of people when they announced that the Washington Post announced that when Height was stepping down and they would buy their building, that Dorothy Height, second president of National Council of Negro Women, is stepping down as president. Well, she was not the second president. She would have been the last elected president.
So the second president would have been Dorothy Ferebee. Under Dr. Ferebee is a woman by the name of Vivian Carter Mason. Miss Mason would have been the third president of the National Council of Negro Women. So let's see. Miss Mason, I mean, Dr. Ferebee would have served from 1949 to 1953; Vivian Carter Mason would have served from 1953 to1957.
Miss Mason was an excellent organizer. By trade, she was a social worker, had excellent organizational skills. After living the National Council of Negro Women, she was the first African-American to be elected to the school board system in Norfolk, Virginia. And then, the last photograph at the bottom under Miss Mason is a young photograph of Dorothy Height.
Now Dorothy Height took the presidency of the National Council of Negro Women, December 5th, 1957. So I know most of you or some of you have heard, she died last year in March.
And they would say, "Ooh, she was president for over 40 years." Well, let's do the math. She took the helm in 1957 and she was president till the day she died, last year. So she was president for over 50 years. Also, before she was elected the national president of the National Council of Negro Women, she had worked 20 years before, with the National Council of Negro Women, before she was elected president, so that's over 70 years.
She said, once she told me, she said, "Do you know? When I met Mary McLeod Bethune, it was in a YWCA in New York City. And Dorothy Height was escorting Eleonor Roosevelt into the Y for a program that they were having. And Mary McLeod Bethune walked up to her and said, "Hmm, hmm, the National Council of Negro Women can use a young woman like you."
And Dr. Height said, "She was immediately smitten. She was hooked line and sink. And she'd been working for the Council ever since. The photograph at the bottom to the right is Vivian Carter Mason who you see her photograph there. You'll also see Dr. Ferebee to the side, and they're entertaining Josephine Baker.
Josephine Baker, they had arranged for a concert for Josephine Baker and so they had agreed to pay Miss Baker amount and the rest of the proceeds will go to the National Council of Negro Women. It was a historic concert because it took place in the D.C. Armory here in Washington, D.C.
At the time of the concert, it took the strong arms of the National Council of Negro Women to force the D.C. Armory to allow them to have that concert in that building because we still were segregated city.
There were still places that African-Americans could not go or practice their crafts in their venues, not only do I have a salute but the National Council of Negro Women forced the D.C. Armory to allow them to have that concert there. And it was all-packed sold-out house.
Now this photograph was taken of the women. I love this photograph. It was taken in the house of a meeting that they were having and you see Mary McLeod Bethune seated there. You also see the renowned Mary Church Terrell. I mentioned Mary Church Terrell because she was the first president of the oldest black club women group in America called the National Association of Colored Women Clubs, which Mary McLeod Bethune also was a member, a national president from 1924 to 1928.
And they were the club to belong to because they were very prestigious group of women. I'll say the first four, at least the first woman, a president, which was Mary Church Terrell was one of four black women who graduated from old Bethune College. So they were one of the first black women in America to earn their degrees at old Bethune College.
And so Mary McLeod Bethune would have been their eight president and she took up where they left off. And they were kind of upset for the fact that she would start another organization because they were considered the organization to be and of the day. And they did some pretty impressive things. Like for one, they would have had a healthcare plan.
It was like the Old Barrel societies in Europe. If you paid them a certain amount of money a month, they would have given you an insurance policy. Insurance policy said if you died, they would bury you, give you a funeral or courtess and put a headstone on your grave.
They also would have given you a card that if you were sick, you could redeem that card. You could just contact the organization and they would send a doctor or a nurse out to your home. And I mean, they really were some impressive women. It sounds like what a healthcare system this day. That's how they had started years ago when they gave benefits to disenfranchised black people here in America.
Now this was spearheaded by the National Council of Negro Women. It's called art entitled "Led a monument to a monument" and that's what they called it. In 1959, Dorothy Height and the National Council of Negro Women went before Congress and asked, "We wanted to erect the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune in a federal park in Washington D.C."
This is the one that stand and sorry it's the back of it. This is the best photograph I could find although it was the back of the statue.
This is the memorial grouping that was put in Lincoln Park on Capital Hill in Lincoln Park. If you've never seen it, sometimes if you're in the areas between 11th and 13th Street on East Capital Street, and around that black bear is the legacy of Mary McLeod Bethune.
And I forgot to bring copies of that but there's a small excerpt on the site brochure that you'll see about her legacy. And this is written around the band of that. Do you remember years ago when – a few years ago – when there was a lot of rapes and killings on Capitol Hill then people was all up in arms?
Well, someone discovered within their group that legacy of Mary McLeod Bethune and that's what helped them during that time to get through what was going on and to encourage their neighbors. And then they decided we're not moving. We're not going anywhere and we're going to learn how to live harmoniously with those neighbors. And that was written on – that's one of the legacies of Mary McLeod Bethune—learn how to live harmoniously with your fellow men.
And so the statue was put in Lincoln Park, July 10, 1974. So from '59 to '74, during that time, they were raising money. It caused them over $200,000 to have that statue done. Robert Becks, I think it was Becks or Burke, was the one who did the statue for them. The same gentleman who did Lincoln statue that's in Ward Theatre and the Kennedy Brothers statue that was in the Kennedy Center.
Now not only was Bethune educator, political activist and so on, she was advisor to four U.S. Presidents in her lifetime. Now with Coolidge and Hoover, she worked on fact-finding commissions like child welfare and housing. And so she worked on a panel just like a regular federal advisory commissioner today who the – the federal government looks out into America and see outstanding Americans whomever they have solved various problems.
And they asked them to comment, sit on a federal advisory commission so that they can figure out how to solve those particular problems. That's what Bethune did with Coolidge and Hoover. Yet with our 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he actually appointed Mary McLeod Bethune to a federal position.
In 1935, same year she founded the National Council of Negro Women, he asked her to join the Department of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration. Four years later, 1939, he made her head of that federal agency so that made Mary McLeod Bethune the first African-American woman to head a U.S. federal agency.
When President Truman came along, our 33rd President, he made Mary McLeod Bethune and 11 other outstanding African-Americans assistant secretaries to the Department of Defense, ensuring that black men were not initially discriminated to join any branch of the military that they wanted and that black women were not omitted from the women's auxiliary corps.
The Army stepped forward and said, "Ooh, boys, we see the handwriting on the wall. We can't get around having women in the military." So what they did, they created jobs for women that they can do. But they made the decision that it wasn't going to take black women because we were a segregated country. And when they made the announcement, guess who was sitting in the room? Mary McLeod Bethune.
And she stood up and reminded them "Oh no, we will not omit the black lady. And by next year, they will be trained and admitted to the Women's Auxiliary Corps." She reminded them that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940s that had signed the executive act ending discrimination in the federal government.
And so they all just went on. But she didn't stop there. She made sure that African-American women were sent to officer candidate schools. So it's good to know someone as the president that you can make these types of suggestions. And they happened.
Is any of you familiar with the Roosevelt Administration when President Roosevelt – have you ever heard of something called the Black Cabinet? OK, I get two nods that they heard of the Black Cabinet.
The Black Cabinet was a group of black men that was appointed during the Roosevelt Administration. Mary McLeod Bethune suggested to President Roosevelt, "President Roosevelt, you need to appoint a black man to each one of your cabinet posting." Can you see Roosevelt's glass and he says "So OK, Miss Bethune, why should I appoint a black man to each one of my cabinet post?" And she simply said, "Did not you say that you were for the ordinary common person on the street?"
And as I know it now, there's still some black neighborhoods within the country that don't have running water, paved streets, electric lights, within gas lines, within their neighborhoods. And you know when you've never been without these things, you can't fathom them because you've been in one social circle.
And Bethune says, "Oh no. If you appoint these men, they will tell you exactly where they are and then we need to make sure that tax dollars get to those communities." And FDR said was, "Well, I don't know." But Bethune did not give up. She continued to say to President Roosevelt, "President Roosevelt, we need to appoint a black man to each one of your cabinet posting." Guess what? Each one of those men that you would appoint to your cabinet post already have federal positions. They're already in place. All you got to do is give them that extra little something to do and I know they'll be glad to do it." And he did.
So if you want to learn more about this, you can also visit our site. We have photographs of these men, articles and things on these men that you are more than welcome to see and to review.
Now this is the Council House. We're located at 1318 Vermont Avenue Northwest. Again, we became the 287th site, October 1, 1995, which would have been FY '96. Our first site manager is now – she's used to work for department of, DOI. I forgot which bureau. Her name was Marta Cruz Kelly. She's now in our interpretation – head of our Interpretation branch with Julia Washburn.
This is a late second impasse type of empire of Victorian Brown stone. It was built in 1875 and it's located in the Logan Circle Historic District.
During the time when Mary McLeod Bethune would have bought this house, they were asking $15,500 for this house. As a young organization, did you remember I told for the first nine years they had a house on – she ran the Council out of the living room of her house on 9th Street?
So when she found this house, saw that they were asking $15,500, she began to think about "how in the world am I going to raise this money?" Then someone told her about a gentleman who had just started a foundation, by the name of Marshall Field III. Is anyone familiar with Field?
He was the department store owner of Field's Department Store in Chicago, Illinois. Now he was having some problem himself because they were some ladies picketing his store daily saying "Ooh, he's not fair. He's not hiring coloreds in his store." And he took that thing so personal because he knew all of his other department store buddies and all no one was working on satisfactory race relations.
So he started a foundation with $11,000. Anyone who could prove – they were working on unsatisfactory race relations in America could apply for the money. But guess who heard about it? Mary McLeod Bethune.
She made an appointment with Fields, beat it to Chicago, gave Fields the pitch of her life about the goals and objectives of the National Council of Negro Women. And then proceeded to ask him for $10,000 of the $11,000, which he did give her and that's what she used to come back here to Washington to buy this house.
The women were so excited. Those club women were so excited that Bethune had a $10,000 that they didn't have to pay back. That it took them less than a year to raise the remaining $5,000 for the house and may had a mortgage burning ceremony there at the house in 1944, which Eleonor Roosevelt was the keynote speaker.
And so when you come to the house, you'll see above our kiosk the photograph of the dedication ceremony that took place in 1944. Now we have something that's even more important than the house and the deliberation that took place in the Council House.
The building here you see, this tent, this is our courtyard looks like in the summer time. We used it as overflow for our guests when we had program to the house. The red brick building that you see with the exit sign on it, that's our Archives. It's a National Archives for Black Women's History.
We have the largest collection of photographs, letters, papers, dowries documenting black women's history here in America. We have a jewel of information there. We only collect black women's history. It was started by Mary McLeod Bethune and a woman by the name of Sue Bailey Thurman. And don't feel bad if you don't know who Sue Bailey Thurman is but I'm going to tell you just a little bit about her.
She was the wife of Howard Thurman who was head of the non-denominational movement here in D.C., in Washington. He was the head of the Boston Theological Seminary at Boston University and at Howard University. Sue Bailey and Howard Thurman were the couple to introduce Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King.
And so his wife dedicated herself in helping do a call for papers and getting that archives up and running. And so for what they did, the National Park Service had a really great collection of African-American women history.
This is our National Archives for Black Women's History. I'm finding one of our aids. I have it on a tape if you'd like to take a copy of it. It talks about the collections that we have processed. We have much more that needs to be processed. We have over 900 square feet of other records that need to be processed. We've run out of space.
Our preferred alternative when we did our – conducted our general management plan calls for us of buying another – a facility so that we can keep our records on the premises. So the house adjacent to where we are now – excuse me. We have plans to buy that house and expand so we can exhibit space, archival space and gift shop and visitors and all will go in that huge house next door to us.
Now this is a National Council of Negro Women now. Mary McLeod Bethune always said, "My people should have a strong presence in the nation's capital." She believed that if you're going someplace you are getting things done look like you're going someplace. Let people take you serious.
So she really wanted a big – a really nice prestigious headquarters where her wish has been finally realized with the acquisition of the NCNW, our national headquarters, located at 633 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Have you ever wondered what that big building there on 17 Pennsylvania Avenue? I mean it looks like a big pink castle trimmed in brown. Do you ever wonder what's in that building? Well, there's a small placard on the outside. You can't read it afar but it says "NCNW". That's the headquarters to this day.
Their dedication was the same date the National Park Service had a dedication for the Council House that we live in. And I mean we had the host of Hollywood, Hilary Rodham Clinton to turn out for Dorothy Height that morning. So the morning they closed off Pennsylvania Avenue back to the capital. Can you imagine 17th Pennsylvania Avenue being closed back to the capital?
And they had the most dignified ceremony that you've ever seen, again with the host of Hollywood and Hilary Rodham Clinton. It's a big stage there in the middle of the street. And they commemorated the fact that no other African-Americans have ever owned property on Pennsylvania Avenue, and so that's where the headquarters is today.
And that concludes my PowerPoint presentation. What I would like to do now, I have a CD of her voice. Would you like to hear what she sounds like? This was a speech that she gave. This was the honorary ceremony for her which Ed Solomon kicked off for her, an anniversary and appreciation service for Mary McLeod Bethune. And so I'd like to let you hear in just a few more minutes.
Also we have, every July 10th in Lincoln Park we have a birthday commemoration of Mary McLeod Bethune. If you're around, come. We usually have family members. Now her son is dead. He died around 1979 – between '79 and '80 and the date just went out of my head. But he had 11 children. So she has a lot of grandchildren and great-grand children that's still alive. And a lot of them do come to the birthday celebration that we have for Mrs. Bethune there in Lincoln Park.
[Voice Record of Mary McLeod Bethune]
And I invite you my friends, Madame Chairman, fellow guests, ladies and gentlemen, my beloved daughters, this is a very moving moment for me. This is not the time for me to speak. This is the time for me to sit. In great humility, with my head bowed, my soul looking upward with a gratitude to a God who has made possible for one like me to stand before an audience like this, who come to pay homage to simple and ordinary human being who came from the depth of ignorance and poverty to a platform of service—service to mankind.
It's moving. There's a spiritual undertaking I feel now that has taken me being quiet and let the tears of gratitude flow because you have been humble enough to permit a great God, to take a life, reshape it and mold it to send it out to live on sunshine and love and peace, honorable.
Above all men regardless of their creed, their class, their color. I don't want to fight you. Proud that you contributed through your presence here, your endorsement of the efforts that we've been putting forth during all the years.
To lift mankind to our God and to bring them closer together, to rid them of hate, and to fill them with love, to take away the spirit of segregation, discrimination and bind us together as one, in the great democracy made by a great God.
I'm very grateful to know– my daughters – those of you who in America and other parts of the world, I've been the dream but know how wonderfully you have interpreted my dreams.
You are the interpreters. And now, as I stand on the sidelines, as I watch the great ground go by, I will then ask you to take the torch and to straighten our hands possibly 13 years ago and carry that torch higher and higher and higher under the spirit of brotherhood shall have been filled up the world, and mankind everywhere will understand the change you have to mind to drive away the wall.
To drive around the things that have tainted to keep us apart and building or standing in a bridge that we can walk over all types of difficulties and bring into action that brotherhood, that fellowship that the world needs to be, ever a great spirit, a great mind, a great leader. So one day if we can only get the peoples of the world dream of a change in their attitude, in their spirit, in their ideals, even traditions and will kick them on up a challenge of the great spirit of love and peace that would be beneath the wall.
Now if we could live by every single one of us today, that spirit of absolute purity, Oh God had me invited absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, absolute love. There will be no need of guns and cannons but mankind living each for the other will have imbibed that spirit of unity and fair play and gone the differences but fly away.
Oh, I'm so glad that the underlying current of the struggle today has been spiritual. If I have any last word, my daughters to leave with you. I want you to keep your hand in God's hand. I want you to keep your feet on the ground. I wanted you to see that I'm going up and revive the power you have to help to push them up.
And I want, if you should see men down, in whatever area of life they may be, I want you my daughters to be vigilant to reach the home and pull them up and give to them that something that I cannot express in words, that spiritual something that will allow them to stand and be counted among the people to the world that are doing something. I'm very grateful to you, for this tribute today. God bless you.
God inspire you. God dedicate every single one of you anew today to go out and shine, shine so that your life might be singing in doubtful places and then it went everywhere. Renew the spirit of brotherhood, the spirit of the great prize to gain himself that we might have a life and have it more abundantly. I thank you.
Margaret Miles: Wow. Isn't that something? That's won her grace doom. She's buried on the college campus in Daytona Beach, Florida near her home, and is that she gave so that others may have life and have it more abundantly.
That concludes our program.