Local school may be renamed in honor of Mary McLeod Bethune

A school in Shreveport may soon be renamed after an iconic American educator.

Council members and citizens worked to rename Oak Park Microsociety Elementary School on Henry Street as Oak Park Bethune Elementary School.

Curtis Graham said: “The school was originally named after a great educator, Mary McLeod Bethune. She was a woman who devoted much of her life to education. We ask that you consider renaming this school, not just Oak Park Bethune, but Bethune Oak Park.”

Here are 5 things you need to know about Mary McLeod Bethune

Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune, center, meet at Bethune-Cookman College in 1952.

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Bethune was born in 1875 on a small rice and cotton farm in South Carolina. She was born to two former slaves who raised 15 children.

Bethune, unlike her parents, was able to get an education and graduated from Scotia Seminary for Girls in 1893. Within five years Bethune was married.

Bethune was not just an educator but a wife and mother.

love for education

In 1904 Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, which later became Bethune-Cookman College.

This school started out as an all-girls school and was a small house in Daytona Beach in a part of town where black people could live, own businesses, worship, and go to school.

Being a founding member of the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute would later launch her quest for civil rights and women’s rights.

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Civil rights and women’s rights

Bethune’s passion took her to Washington DC where she became the only African American woman to assist the US delegation in drafting the United Nations Charter.

Bethune created the National Council of Negro Women, headed the Office of Minority Affairs in the National Youth Administration, and became a general in the Women’s Army for National Defense.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Bethune became an adviser to four US presidents. One such president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, known for the New Deal, which gave black people middle management jobs.

Roosevelt also created what became known as the Black Cabinet, and Bethune was one of the leaders of this body.

The Black Cabinet consisted of an unofficial group of advisers who met at Bethune’s home in Washington.

Bethune’s heritage

Bethune was an American educator, civil rights activist, teacher, humanitarian, and philanthropist.

Today, schools across the country honor his name, and Oak Park Microsociety Elementary School in Shreveport is no exception.

“When you think of Bethune, you always think of academia,” said Jackie Lansdale, a speaker at the Caddo Parish school board meeting.

The board will formally vote on the name change at the April 19 meeting.

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Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the News-Journal contributed to this story.

Makenzie Boucher is a reporter for the Shreveport Times. Contact her at [email protected]

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