The Last Will and Testament of Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary Mcleod Bethune


The Choice to Stay Woke Defies The Testament of Mary Mcleod Bethune

On a sweltering day in early June, a bus tour sponsored by several Progressive groups: the League of Women Voters, the Florida NAACP and Rainbow PUSH stopped in West Palm Beach, Florida. This bus stopped in my hometown at a church I once attended. The bus had the image of the late civil rights activist John Lewis but was also emblazoned with the words, “Stay Woke.”

The “Woke” ideology which has become a target of Governor and Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis, is being defended by Florida’s Black Democratic Legislators and these groups.

As a conservative, I am encouraged that this protest or stunt was only able to get a small crowd of three hundred, bribed with free food, t-shirts, and giveaways. But it also saddened me that the so-called banned books used as giveaways had become demagogued weapons in the hands of Progressives trying to hang onto decades of influence accumulated over black voters.

Where did the Civil Rights movement go so wrong?

Now hopefully I don’t come off as Hillary Clinton channeling Eleanor Roosevelt in a creepy séance, but I looked to one of my heroes, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

I came across Bethune’s Last Will and Testament where she penned her hopes for black America. In reading them, her last words struck me as so prescient.

But let me tell you a little bit about this great woman.


Childhood Home in Mayesville, SC

Mary Jane Mcleod was born July 10, 1875, in Mayesville South Carolina. She grew up as one of 17 children born to formerly enslaved parents. Everyone in the family worked in the cotton fields and Mary by age nine could pick 250 pounds of cotton a day.

However, Mary took an early interest in becoming educated. Missionaries educated her. When a short-lived marriage left her to raise a son as a single parent, she never stopped in her mission to educate others.


In 1904, single mom, Mary Mcleod Bethune founded The Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls with only five students and her 5-year-old son. She had only $1.50 but she had her faith in God, and she persevered. Within 2 years, Bethune grew her school to more than 250 students. This school would later become the historically black university, Bethune-Cookman University.





“The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” ~ Mary Mcleod Bethune




There are many more achievements I could name but here are some notable accomplishments:

  • One of the founders of the United Negro College Fund.
  • Founded a hospital and training school for black nurses.
  • Co-owner of property that allowed black Americans access to Daytona’s beach.
  • She helped integrate the Red Cross.
  • Advisor to four Presidents: Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.
  • She helped solidify the U.N. Charter’s commitment to human rights without regard to race, sex, or religion.

Now that you have a great idea of who Mary Mcleod Bethune was, let me tell you about the answers that I searched for in her Last Will and Testament. Three questions came to mind.

QUESTION #1: Dr. Bethune, just recently the Supreme Court has struck down Affirmative Action in higher education. No longer will race be a factor in college admissions. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s opinion that, “…the majority’s perspective is that it proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism. But if that is its motivation, the majority proceeds in vain.”

In reading Dr. Bethune’s Testament, I read this:

“I LEAVE YOU HOPE. The Negro’s growth will be great in the years to come. Yesterday, our ancestors endured the degradation of slavery, yet they retained their dignity. Today, we direct our economic and political strength toward winning a more abundant and secure life. Tomorrow, a new Negro, unhindered by race taboos and shackles, will benefit from more than 330 years of ceaseless striving and struggle. Theirs will be a better world. This I believe with all my heart.”

Any Supreme Court Justice, a guardian of our Constitution should know that no law can end racism. No law can wipe away prejudice.

A Constitutionalist will embrace laws that remove obstacles to opportunities and never support dictating a citizen’s outcomes.

I moved on to ask my second question.

QUESTION #2: There is no more undemocratic and damaging movement than those supporting the Woke ideology. Dr. Bethune, what are your thoughts on this ideology which has been adopted by so many elected black leaders?

Forgiving is not about forgetting; it’s letting go of the hurt” ~ Mary Mcleod Bethune

“I LEAVE YOU RESPECT FOR THE USES OF POWER. We live in a world which respects power above all things. Power, intelligently directed, can lead to more freedom. Unwisely directed, it can be a dreadful, destructive force…Now that the barriers are crumbling everywhere, the Negro in America must be ever vigilant lest his forces be marshalled behind wrong causes and undemocratic movements. He must not lend his support to any group that seeks to subvert democracy. That is why we must select leaders who are wise, courageous, and of great moral stature and ability…

I LEAVE YOU RACIAL DIGNITY …..We must make an effort to be less race conscious and more conscious of individual and human values. I have never been sensitive about my complexion. My color has never destroyed my self-respect, nor has it ever caused me to conduct myself in such a manner as to merit the disrespect of any person. I have not let my color handicap me. Despite many crushing burdens and handicaps, I have risen from the cotton fields of South Carolina to found a college, administer it during its years of growth, become a public servant in the government of our country and a leader of women. I would not exchange my color for all the wealth in the world, for had I been born white I might not have been able to do all that I have done or yet hope to do.”

I wish I could say that during challenging times in my life I didn’t fall into thoughts of victimhood. I wish I didn’t suffer sometimes from the sin of envy. Envy that kept me from recognizing my blessings.

In general, black Americans ignored Dr. Bethune’s warnings. To “Stay Woke” is to stay immersed in a converted ideology borrowed from Mao’s Cultural Marxism. For the last few generations, we have put our racial identity over our American identity.

This country has given us more prosperity than any other brown people on earth. Yet we have spurned our own American success stories.

But like Bethune, I am hopeful that black American will once again boast of our American citizenship.

Bethune with Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie Robinson


“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. Our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world. They must not be discouraged from aspiring toward greatness, for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow…We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.”

In 1949 Ebony magazine titled Mary Mcleod Bethune as the “acknowledged First Lady of Negro America”.

Allowing for change in race terms from Negro to black or African American, I can think of no better title for this heroine

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