Annual Bethune Birthday Celebration

Park Rangers lay wreaths before the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial during a Birthday event
Park Rangers lay wreaths in front of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial during a Birthday event.

NPS Photo

Celebrating 50 Years of the Bethune Memorial

This year, the National Park Service is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the unveiling and dedication of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial and the 149th Anniversary of the Birth of Mary McLeod Bethune in Lincoln Park!

We will have a Re-dedication Ceremony on Saturday, July 13, 2024 at 3:30 pm at Lincoln Park.

After the Memorial Re-dedication, join us for park ranger-led tours, exhibits, hands-on activities and the following programs:

Re-dedication Ceremony - 3:30 pm

Re-dedication Ceremony will mirror the original 1974 program.

Concert by DC Strings Workshop - 5:00 pm
DC Strings Workshop builds community and expands horizons by engaging diverse audiences and works to expose students and adults to music of women and underrepresented people of color. They have performed at many venues including the Kennedy Center and other National Park Sites.

"Meet Mrs. Bethune" - 6:00 pm
as performed by Actor, Leslie Jones

Known for her oratory skills, Mary McLeod Bethune championed the rights of African Americans and women both in America and abroad.

Jones' presentation will highlight key moments of Mrs. Bethune's life, selected excerpts from her most famous speeches, and a lively question and answer period with the audience.

Music by the Tribe Band - 7:00 pm
In keeping with the 1970s flavor of the original memorial dedication, The Tribe Band will play among their repertoire of Motown, Gospel, Smooth Jazz, and Funk.
  • For the history of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial, click here.
Bethune Memorial Model
NCNW Presidents Vivian Carter Mason, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, and Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee view the model of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial by sculptor Robert Berks.


Celebrating Mary McLeod Bethune

Who doesn’t love a good birthday celebration?

Each year, the National Park Service honors Mary McLeod Bethune with events on or around her birthday. Each of these events highlight her amazing life and showcases her legacy for all to remember. Mrs. Bethune—educator, civil rights activist, presidential advisor, public servant, and champion of women’s rights—was born on July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina. In 1974, on what would have been her 99th birthday, a memorial in her honor was unveiled in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. by the organization she founded, the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. (NCNW). Each year, we incorporate that Memorial into our programming to honor its dedication as the first memorial to an African American and a woman erected on public land in the nation’s capital.
Dorothy I. Height at Bethune Memorial
NCNW President Dorothy I. Height with NCNW members at the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park during one of the NCNW-sponsored Bethune Birthday Celebrations.


Past Celebrations

During her lifetime, Mary McLeod Bethune’s birthday was often used as a platform for fundraising for the NCNW, as well as Bethune-Cookman University, the school she established in Daytona Beach, Florida. During her time in Washington, D.C., there were a number of events held right here in the nation's capital that included venues like the D.C. Armory, Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, and even Griffith Stadium. For several years, the Homestead Grays, a Negro Leagues baseball team, collaborated with the NCNW and sponsored baseball games at Griffith Stadium to help the NCNW in the fundraising efforts for the construction of the Liberty Ship S. S. Harriet Tubman.

After Mrs. Bethune’s death in 1955, these birthday celebrations continued. Under the administration of Dorothy I. Height, NCNW’s fourth national president, luminaries such as Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, actress Cicely Tyson, comedian Dick Gregory, executive/activist Vernon Jordan, and Mrs. Coretta Scott King took part in the NCNW-sponsored celebrations, which helped to bring a visibility to the national organization and Mrs. Bethune’s legacy.
Mary McLeod Bethune stands outside the United States Capitol dome, 1949
Mary McLeod Bethune stands outside in front of the United States Capitol dome in 1949. This photograph served as the cover of the April 1949 issue of Ebony Magazine, published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Johnson Publishing Company


How do you want to be remembered?

Your legacy is how you will be remembered by others based on how you lived and what you contributed. You can chose your legacy by being intentional about your values, your actions, and your impact. Your legacy can include material possessions, your family, your faith, your generosity, your standards, and your influence. Your legacy is a reflection of who you are and what you care about.

There are no words that can be more strengthening than the words of one of the greatest personalities of the twentieth century, who in her last literary pronouncement, left a legacy that has become one of the greatest historical documents of our time. These same words or tenets of her Last Will and Testament or "Legacy" are found around the base of the Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park. They are also found here below:

  • I leave you Love.
  • I leave you Hope.
  • I leave you the Challenge of Developing Confidence in One Another.
  • I leave you a Thirst for Education.
  • I leave you a Respect for the Use of Power.
  • I leave you Faith.
  • I leave you Racial Dignity.
  • I leave you a Desire to Live Harmoniously with Your Fellow Men.
  • I leave you, finally, a Responsibility to Our Young People.

Last updated: June 6, 2024

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
1318 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20005



Contact Us