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Born Mary Jane Mcleod on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary Mcleod Bethune is known by many as a leading educator and civil rights activist. But few knew that she was instrumental in fighting for the health of African Americans as well. She grew up in poverty, as one of 17 children born to former slaves. Everyone in the family worked, and many toiled in the fields, picking cotton. Bethune became the one and only child in her family to go to school when a missionary opened a school nearby for African-American children. Traveling miles each way, she walked to school each day and did her best to share her newfound knowledge with her family.

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Bethune later received a scholarship to the Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), a school for girls in Concord, North Carolina. After graduating from the seminary in 1893, she went to the Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (also known as Moody Bible Institute) in Chicago. Bethune complete her studies there two years later. Returning to the South, she began her career as a teacher.

After her nine year marriage to Albertus Bethune in 1907 and because of her belief that education could open the doors to…

Mary McLeod Bethune: The Health Advocate You Never Knew was originally published on BlackDoctor.org

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