Skip to content

Bethune was arguably the best known African American of her generation. She served in the National Youth Administration under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was an outspoken advocate for social concerns affecting black youth. She founded Methodist-related Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Girls in 1904 and served as its president until 1942. Except where noted, these quotations are found in Clarence G. Newsome, Mary McLeod Bethune in Religious Perspective (Ph.D. thesis, Duke University, 1982).

“God’s word is our standard, and we have no need for varying if we live a million years.”From a letter to friends, May 12, 1955 (p.217)

“Can one love God and yet believe that he is right in attempting to restrict his neighbor’s knowledge – the growth of his mind – to that which will restrict his neighbor’s livelihood? His neighbor’s share in the conduct of the community? Can one love God and serve Him with open mind and open heart and still wish for his neighbor less than he has for himself? Consider his neighbor to possess less human dignity? To be worthy of less courtesy and respect? To need fewer physical comforts and cultural opportunities? No! Surely none of these things are the love of God, nor are these the acts of brotherhood.”From a sermon, “We march forward to brotherhood,” Riverside Church, New York City, November 13, 1949 (p.231)

“Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.” From a statement entitled “My Last Will and Testament” quoted in Rackham Holt, Mary McLeod Bethune: A Biography (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964) (p.288)

“As I look back over the years, I feel my faith and my work have justified each other. My life has been a spiritual thing, a religious reality, creative and alive. Whatever ‘works’ I have done have justified my faith, as St. Paul would say, for I have daily felt the presence of God in the tasks he has set before me in visions, and I have known his divine guidance and presence through all of the years.”From “What My Faith Means to Me – An Educator,” The Church Woman, December 1954 (pp.14-17)