• Black History Month Essay Contest – First Prize

    An Investment in the Human Soul – by Chloe Coe, PGHS Sophomore

        As the daughter of former slaves, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune only dreamed of creating the change that she and many young African Americans had forever longed to see in the world. On July 10th, 1875, Bethune was born into a family consisting of her mother (Patsy McLeod), her father (Samuel McLeod), and 17 children she would call her siblings. 

    After the civil war, her newly freed mother continued to work for the family that had previously owned her until she was able to buy the cotton farm from said family. Bethune worked alongside her family on the farm until she was able to attend a newly founded boarding school in North Carolina. She was adamant about utilizing these newly granted privileges in order to prove herself to anyone and everyone who had ever doubted an African American child’s abilities and determination. 

    Due to Bethune’s tenacity, she was able to graduate from the Scotia Seminary in 1894 and then attend Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago. Throughout her schooling, she maintained nearly perfect grades because she wanted to be an example of how all African American women could flourish when given a proper education and the same opportunities as any white child. When no church came forward to sponsor her in her missionary work, Bethune made the life-changing decision to redirect her life and become an educator. Upon doing so, she married a coworker named Albertus Bethune and had a son in 1899, Albert Bethune. Soon after the birth of her son, she and her husband made the decision to uproot their lives and move to Palatka, Florida to seek out better work opportunities. 

    When her marriage ended in 1904, Bethune felt she had no choice but to open a boarding school she named the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls. Due to a lack of resources, she spent most of her time making elderberry ink or scrap wood pencils for her students. Though many doubted her school would succeed, Bethune always said, “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Decades after its creation, the boarding school was transformed into a college after it merged with an all-male boarding school, the Bethune-Cookman College. After a student of hers was injured while attending the school, Bethune realized that Daytona was in desperate need of a hospital that would properly care for people of color and swiftly took action. Although the cabin she purchased to turn into a clinic began with just two beds, the physicians and student nurses Bethune had hired helped the McLeod Hospital grow to over 10 times its original size. 

    To add to her long list of accomplishments and contributions to the world, Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women, served as the Florida chapter president of the National Assossiation of Colored Women (NACW), served as president of the Southeastern Association of Colored Women’s clubs and even worked alongside Eleanor Roosevelt as part of the Black Cabinet at the Southern Conference on Human Welfare. Bethune also co-founded the United Negro College Fund with Frederick D. Patterson and William J. Trent, which provided scholarships and job opportunities to African American students who had attended any historically black college. Though Bethune passed away on May 18, 1955, her legacy and accomplishments have helped numerous minorities, provided a proper education and health care for many, and established various foundations which continue to support members of various minority groups. As Bethune often said, “Believe in yourself, learn, and never stop wanting to build a better world.” 

    Chloe Coe, Sophomore, Pacific Grove High School, 18 February 2021

    Ms. Chloe Coe, First Place Essay $100

    posted to Cedar Street Times on March 18, 2021

    Topics: Creative Writing


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