Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Mary McLeod Bethune
A week or so ago, I featured pictures of a statue of Lincoln in a little park east of the Capitol. In addition to the tribute to the Great Emancipator, the park is also home to a statue of a little-known (at least, unfortunately, among white people), but influential civil rights activist named Mary McLeod Bethune.
The fifteenth of 17 children, Ms. Bethune was born to former slaves in South Carolina. An educator, Ms. Bethune founded an African-American all-girls school in Daytona Beach, Florida, that later merged with an all-boys school and became the Bethune-Cookman College (and now a university.) She served as its president from 1923-42 and again in 1946-47. She was also part of President Franklin Roosevelt's Black Cabinet--an informal group of black policy advisors and advocates to the president. Ms. Bethune also founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 in New York and it later headquartered in a house on Logan Circle that is now a designated National Historic Site.
This statue to Ms. Bethune is located in Lincoln Park and was the first statue in the city honoring a black American. It was sculpted by Robert Berks, the same artist who sculpted the whimsical likeness of Albert Einstein and a bust of President John F. Kennedy for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In this tribute to Ms. Bethune, she is seen supported by a cane given to her by President Roosevelt and handing a copy of her legacy to two eager children.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09/08