Mary McLeod Bethune: My Last Will and Testament

Photo: A young Mary McLeod Bethune (b. July 10, 1875 - d. May 18, 1955)
Born July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune became a civil rights leader and educator known best for creating a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida -- now known as Bethune-Cookman University. Born to enslaved African parents, Sam and Patsy McLeod, she has left her legacy upon the wall of time: serving the African-American community, advising U.S. presidents, and more. Rising from the humblest background, she became an icon of African womanhood as preserver and a woman of courage in the face of great social and economic challenges. Below is one of McLeod's writings -- more of a prayer poem -- titled My Last Will and Testament.

If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is
my philosophy of living and serving.

Here, Then, is My Legacy...
  • I leave you love.
      Love builds. It is positive and helpful.
  • I leave you hope.
    • Yesterday, our ancestors endured the degradation of slavery, yet they retained their dignity.
  • I leave you the challenge of developing
    confidence in one another.
    • This kind of confidence will aid the economic rise of the race by bringing together the pennies and dollars of our people and ploughing them into useful channels.
  • I leave you thirst for education.
    • Knowledge is the prime need of the hour. 
  • I leave you a respect for the uses of power.
    • Power, intelligently directed, can lead to more freedom.
  • I leave you faith.
    • Faith in God is the greatest power, but great, too, is faith in oneself.
  • I leave you racial dignity.
    • I want Negroes to maintain their human dignity at all costs.
  • I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow man.

  • I leave you, finally, a responsibility to our young people.
      The world around us really belongs to youth, for youth will take over its future management.

    Mary McLeod Bethune
Bronze memorial statue of Mary McLeod Bethune, by Robert Berks, located in Washington D.C.


  1. Amazing! I am SO glad I chose this person for my wax museum!

  2. I first read this in 1991. I still read it today. So relevant.


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