Oct. 3, 1904

Mary McLeod Bethune with her students. Credit: State Archives of Florida

Mary McLeod Bethune opened a training school in Daytona Beach, Florida, with “$1.50, faith in God and five little girls.” Discarded crates and boxes served as their desks and chairs. 

Eventually that school became an accredited institution, Bethune-Cookman College, and she served as a college president, one of the few women in the world to do so. 

“Invest in the human soul,” she urged. “Who knows? It might be a diamond in the rough.” 

A determined civil rights leader, she decried the lynchings of Black Americans and fought for voting rights and better health care. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her as a national adviser of his “Black Cabinet” to direct the National Youth Administration. She was known as “The First Lady of The Struggle” because of her dedication to the movement. 

Her home in Daytona Beach was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 2018, the Florida Legislature designated her to become one of two statues representing the state inside the U.S. Capitol. Two years later, Time selected her as one of the most influential women of the past century.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.