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Reporter: This is Weekly News, and reporting tonight: Jane Marcus. Our top story: Mrs. Mary Mcleod Bethune, a woman who has fought for children of her color, black children, who want to learn and get a good job when they get older. Mrs. Bethune, will you please come out?
Mary: Hi! I'm so glad to be here.
Reporter: Mrs. Bethune, is it true that you were the fifteenth child born out of seventeen?
Mary: Why, yes. I was also the first child born in my family who was not a slave. I wasn't a slave, because the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, freed millions of slaves, including my parents. Because of this, I was the first child in my family born free.
Reporter: Wow! You must have had an easy childhood.
Mary: Not really. I will admit I did get to go to an all black school while the others had to work, but I studied hard, and that's why I can read and write today. As you know, life was not easy for an African American back then. One child thought my skin was dirty and told me to clean it off. I told her it was just the color of my skin, but she didn't believe me.
Reporter: That was mean!
Mary: I know, but that is how Blacks were treated then. She was only a child who learned to treat Blacks like that from her parents.
Reporter: What do you think was your greatest accomplishment?
Mary: I think my greatest accomplishment was that I created an all black school, so that Blacks would be allowed to go to school. For example, in Daytona, Florida, they did not have a school for Blacks, so I tried to make one.
Reporter: Since you came from parents who were slaves, did you feel the need to get into Civil Rights?
Mary: No, I just wanted to help African Americans. The real person who inspired me was Miss Emma Wilson, my first teacher. My parents also helped, because if they wouldn't have sent me to school I would never have known Miss Wilson as I do now. She inspired me, because all the students, including me, said she was a living example of what you can achieve when you have education in your life. Also, she was called "Miss" Wilson, and I had never met a black American who used "Miss," "Mr.," or "Mrs." before their last name. Back then, it was an honor to have a "Miss," "Mr.," or "Mrs." before your last name.
Reporter: Now, on to another question: How did you change the lives of others?
Mary: I think I changed the lives of others by being an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Congress warned that the $100,000 graduate training fund would be cut from the budget, I told President Roosevelt: "Think what a terrible tragedy it would be for America, if, by this action by a committee of Congress, Negroes would be deprived of the leadership of skilled and trained members of their race!" Because of this, President Roosevelt asked Congress to think about what I had said. The next week Congress approved the funding for the graduate training program. I also affected others' lives by helping African Americans go to school and learn what they need to learn to get a good job and vote wisely.
Reporter: Mary, what do you feel was your greatest honor or award?
Mary: I think my greatest award was in 1935 when I received the Spingarn Medal. Awarded by the NAACP, the medal honors the highest achieving American Negro of the previous year. I feel it was my greatest honor because it was for helping black youth. I helped black youth by creating a school and by being a teacher at the school.
Reporter: This is my final question. What do you think people will remember you for?
Mary: I think people will remember me for making a school that Black Americans can go to, not just Whites. Also, I think people will remember me for being an important influence on the president and making a difference in Black Americans' lives.
Reporter: Thank you, Mrs. Mary Mcleod Bethune, for answering all these questions.
Mary: You're welcome, but I should really thank you for helping me learn that I did do a lot of great things.
Reporter: Thanks again.
2 Years Later
Reporter: Sadly, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune died on May 18, 1955, of a heart attack. She was buried on the grounds of The Retreat, her school farm. Her gravestone was simply marked, "Mother." In her will Mary wrote, "I leave you, finally, a responsibility to our young people."
Mary McLeod Bethune Timeline
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