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Mary McLeod Buthane was a human rights, civil rights and education leader. In 1904, at the young age of 29, she opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. The school underwent many stages of growth over the years and in 1937, the school’s name was officially changed to Bethune-Cookman University, one of the five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Florida.
In 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her the director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro Affairs. This made her the first black woman to head a federal agency. She was also a business woman, co-owning a Florida resort and co-founding the Central Life Insurance Company of Tampa. She founded the National Council of Negro Women and she was a member of the National Association of Colored Women until her death in 1955.
In 1974, a memorial statue went up in Washington DC to honor her and she was on a postage stamp in 1985.
Mary McLeod Buthane will be the first African America to be honored in the US Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. In 2018, the Florida House of Representatives passed a resolution asking that a statue of Buthane replace the statue of a Confederate General. The vote tally consisted of 111 for the replacement and only 1 against it. The state senate approved the resolution and her statue is slated to be completed and moved to the Hall this year (2020).