Very few people realize that in 1949 Mary McLeod Bethune received two historic awards.
The first one was Haiti’s highest award, the Medal of Honor and Merit from President Dumarsais Estime. She was the first woman, regardless of race, to ever receive this prestigious award. Based on statements from the President of the Republic of Haiti in 1949, Mary McLeod Bethune received this award for being the “foremost woman of her race in the United States”. Mary Bethune received this medal during the Haiti Exposition of 1949.
Also in 1949, Mary McLeod Bethune traveled as a representative of the U.S. Government to Liberia at the request of President Truman. While there during the inaugaration of Liberian President William Tubman, Mary Bethune was awarded Liberia’s highest medal, The Commander of the Order of the Star of Africa. This was a “dream come true” for Mary McLeod Bethune, who received this prestigious medal during her first trip to Africa after dreaming of serving as a missionary in Africa as a child.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget the many accomplishment of this African American icon and legend so below we have included a list of her accomplishments for all to review.
Mary McLeod Bethune Accomplishments
1. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona, FL. This school was eventually renamed Bethune-Cookman University.
2. She served as president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women from 1917 to 1925. Under her leadership the organization purchased a headquarters in Washington, D.C. and became the first African American organization represented there.
3. She served as president of the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs from 1920 to 1925.
4. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. The mission of this organization was to improve the lives of African American women and their communities.
5. Mary McLeod Behtune served as the Director of the Division of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration. When appointed to this position she became the first African American head of a federal agency. While serving in this capacity, the Director of the National Youth Administration claimed that “No one can do, what Mrs. Bethune can do.”
6. She was an integral part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program and made sure that Historically Black Colleges and Universities participated. As a result, this program graduated some of the first African American pilots.
7. Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the founders and principal organizers of the Black Cabinet. The Black Cabinet consisted of a coalition of leaders from African American organizations that advised the Roosevelt Administration on issues facing Black America.
8. She was such a good friend of Elanor D. Roosevelt that the first lady changed the segregation rules of the Southern Conference of Human Welfare in Birmingham, AL so that she could sit beside Mary McLeod Bethune.
9. She was awarded the Springarn Award from the NAACP in 1935.
10. She was an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta University.
11. Mary McLeod Behtune was the only African American woman present at the founding of the United Nations in 1948.
12. In 1973, Mary McLeod Bethune was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame
13. In 1974, a sculpture was erected to her honor in Lincoln Park in Washington D.C.
14. In 2004, the National Association of Colored Women headquarters in Washington, D.C. became the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.
15. There is a historical marker in Maysville, South Carolina to commemorate the birth of Mary McLeod Bethune.