In Their Own Words…

Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from the school, picture, ca, 1905.

“We must tell the story with continually accruing detail from the cradle to the grave. From the mother’s knee…through the nursery, the kindergarten…grade school, high school, college and university,—through the technical journals, studies, and bulletins of the Association—through newspaper, storybook, and pictures, we must tell the thrilling story. When they learn the fairy tales of mythical king and queen and princess, we must let them hear, too, of the Pharaohs and African kings and the brilliant pageantry of the Valley of the Nile; …(They must learn of)…Hannibal and his Africans… Of Pushkin and Dumas…It is our task to make plain to ourselves the great story of our rise in America from “less than dust” to the heights of sound achievement…Then, armed with the pride and courage of his glorious tradition, conscious of his positive contribution to American life, and enabled to face clear-eyed and unabashed the situation before him, the Negro may gird his loins and go forth to battle to return “with their shields or on them.” And so today I charge our Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to carry forward its great mission to arm us with the facts so that we may face the future with clear eyes and a sure vision. Our Association may say again with Emperor Jean Christophe: “While I live I shall try to build that pride we need, and build it in terms white men as well as black can understand! I am thinking of the future, not now. I will teach pride if my teaching breaks every back in my kingdom” (Mary McLeod Bethune 1938).

NPS Ethnography Program