Mary McLeod Bethune used the power of education, political activism, and civil service to achieve racial and gender equality throughout the United States and the world. The first person in her family born free and the only person in her family afforded a formal education, Bethune emerged from abject poverty and oppression of the Reconstruction Era South to achieve greatness.
With a passion to educate and empower young African American women, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls in 1904. In the mid-1920s her school became co-educational and was renamed Bethune-Cookman College. At the time, it was one of the very few institutions below the Mason-Dixon Line where African Americans could achieve a higher education than a high school diploma. Today her school is a fully accredited university.