"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune

This statue of Mary McLeod Bethune by Robert Berks stands in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. 

The National Park Service gives this run-down on the Memorial.
In 1959 Congress authorized the National Council of Negro Women to build a memorial to its founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, a well-known African American educator and government advisor. Conceived originally to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963, the monument was not dedicated until 1974 because of problems with fundraising (the bronze memorial ended up costing $400,000) and the priority given by the Council, an umbrella organization of African American women's groups, to the efforts of the Civil Rights movement. The sculptor of the Bethune Memorial was Robert Berks, an artist based in New York who also sculpted the gigantic Kennedy bust in the Grand Foyer of Washington's Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. When it was dedicated in 1974, the Bethune Memorial was the first statue of an African American or a woman of any race on public park land in Washington. (The only previous statue of an African American was that of the freed slave in the Emancipation Group, which was based on Archer Alexander, the last man captured under the Fugitive Slave Act). –NPS

Mary Mcleod Bethune
Let her works praise her

The the 1974 dedication plaque points to Dorothy I. Height and the National Council of Negro Women, Inc.

July 10, 1974
By The
National Council of Negro Women, Inc.
Dorothy I. Height

July 10 is Mary McCleod Bethune's birthday; July 10, 1974 would have been her 99th.

The Smithsonian gives us this short biography.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was born of slave parents in South Carolina and went on to become one of the leading black educators. She founded and served as president of Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, FL. In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women. She also served as special adviser to four presidents from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt, who in 1935, appointed her Director of Negro Affairs for his National Youth Administration. The memorial was funded by the National Council of Negro Women who raised the 150,000 dollars needed over a period of thirteen years. According to the National Council of Negro Women, this memorial is the first honoring an African American in the District of Columbia. A quote from Bethune's legacy appears on the base.-- SIRIS

James M. Goode used this photo of the maquette to describe the memorial that had not yet been erected in 1974.

“A 17-foot-high statue of Mrs. Bethune handing a copy of her legacy to two Negro children, an 11-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. She holds in her right hand a cane given to her by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” -- Goode, 1974.
The Emancipation Group depicting Abraham Lincoln and  Archer Alexander, can be seen across the park.

When the Bethune Monument was installed in 1974 the Emancipation Group was turned to face east toward the Bethune Monument. Lincoln turns his back on the Capitol but seems to dance with Mary McCleod Bethune.

Around the rim of the Bethune Monument is a sort of poem by Mary Mcleod Bethune extracted from her last will and testament.

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.

Mary Mcleod Bethune 

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