Born in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of slaves. Following her parent’s footsteps, she had to pick cotton as an African American girl.
Skip to the year 1888, when Bethune receives a scholarship to Scotia Seminary inNorth Carolina. This opportunity sparked her ambition to be an educator and activist.
Now fast forward to the year 1904. Because she believed education would aide in giving African Americans full citizenship rights, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, which later became Bethune-Cookman College in 1929.
Bethune also worked under the Roosevelt administration as the advisor to minority affairs and founded the National Association of Colored Women and the National Council of Negro Women.
Bethune went from picking cotton to starting a movement.
According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (also titled as the Father of Black History) founded Black History Month in 1915. In 1928, Woodson decided to designate a theme each year to focus on different aspects of black history.
This year’s Black History Month theme is “Black Women in American Culture and History.”
This February is to honor all the African American women who aided in the Civil Rights Movement from the Underground Railroad to all women who have stood up against oppression.
Student Eric Toliver reflects on black history and is thankful for what black women have done for African Americans today.
“If I could talk to the women have changed history, such as Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King,” Toliver said, “I would thank them a hundred-plus times for them being as strong and committed to what they made happen. I would also thank them for paving the way for me, though they might not be in my fields of interest, like theatre, film and television.”
Student Erica Stevens would agree with Toliver when it comes to thanking these women, and her favorite activist is Bethune. Although Bethune is not a name that is as well-known as Tubman, Stevens appreciates what Bethune has done for African-American women.
“I love that she fought for the rights of African-Americans,” Stevens said. “But what makes her my favorite is her heart for young African-American women. If I could talk to her today, I would thank her.”
While only February is deemed Black History Month, Stevens enjoys black history throughout the year.
“I don’t have any formal way of celebrating Black History Month, but I try to embrace, celebrate and learn more about my culture year-round.”