Six Transformational Leaders, One Cause: Equal Rights
Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the greatest leaders of education reform in the history of the United States. Born in 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, her parents were former slaves who purchased a farm of their own. Mary assisted on the farm until she turned eleven years old, when she attended a Presbyterian Church school that was founded by a missionary. This marked the beginning of her roots that would shape her views on education and racial equality. (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2010).
Mary then attended Scotia Seminary, a school for African-American girls in Concord, North Carolina, where she was profoundly influenced by both black and white teachers. Her graduation from Scotia led her further in her education as a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois in 1893, where she received extensive training to become a missionary in Africa. It was this desire that further opened her eyes to the depths of racial discrimination, as she was told that African Americans were not allowed to hold missionary appointments. This roadblock, however, led Mary back to the Presbyterian Mission school, where in 1896, Mary become an instructor, as her love for educating black children flourished. Her passion for educating these children became so great that it caused problem with her marriage, and she separated from her husband (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2010).
The year 1904 brought the construction of the Florida East Coast Railroad, along with hundreds of African Americans who needed employment. Mary’s passion to educate these people became her all-consuming focus. She rented a two-story house in Daytona Beach, Florida, and began the arduous task of founding a school for African American girls. At the turn of the century where most black children received little or no educational opportunities, the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls was started. With no supplies, Mary’s ingenuity won out – crates became desks, charcoal became pencils, and crushed berries became ink. As a transformational leader, Mary did everything herself for a while including teaching, administrating, financing, and cleaning, but she later hired a staff, with many of her staff remaining on for years to come. The school quickly grew, and to help finance the expansion of the school, Mary and her students sold ice cream and pie to construction workers. With even a greater need for expansion, Mary sought donations, and in 1912, James Gamble of Proctor and Gamble contributed to the school and became the chairman of board until his death. In 1923, Mary’s school merged a school for boys, and the new school became known as Bethune-Cookman College. She served as president of the college until her retirement in 1941, which was offered as a result of her doctor telling her she was doing too many things. By that time the school had 14 modern buildings,...