No in-person public walking tours will take place for the remainder of 2020
We’re offering virtual experiences with our guides and guest experts instead. While we sorely miss interacting with the thousands of visitors and locals who take our walks every year, we know going virtual is the best way to keep guides and customers safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The legacy of Mary McLeod Bethune inspires us to stay the course when the going gets tough, the way forward uncertain. Bethune’s vision of equality and opportunity for Black Americans was unwavering. Indeed, it formed her life’s work for more than 50 years.
In 1904 Bethune founded the Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, filling the void created by the state of Florida when it failed to deliver public education for black children. By 1923 the school had merged with the nearby Cookman Institute. Today it is known as Bethune-Cookman University and is one of 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S.
In 1911, Bethune opened the first hospital for African Americans in the Daytona, Florida. Named for her parents, McLeod Hospital provided care to the needy, not least during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Before the 1922 elections, over 100 robed Ku Klux Klansmen marched in front of the Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, carrying banners emblazoned with the words “white supremacy,” a retaliation against Bethune’s continued efforts to get black women to the polls. Undeterred, she went to the polls the next week along with 100 other Black voters.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Mary McLeod Bethune head of the new Office of Minority Affairs in the National Youth Administration in 1936, making her the most highly placed black woman in the administration. Her presence in government created opportunities for African Americans who aspired to federal service.
Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. She served as president for 14 years. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., this “organization of organizations” continues to advocate and work on behalf of Black women and families.
In 2021, Bethune will be enshrined in the U.S. Capitol, when her likeness will replace that of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to represent Florida in the National Statuary Hall.