Sometimes as I sit communing in my study I feel that death is not
far off. I am aware that it will overtake me before the
greatest of my dreams – full equality for the Negro in our
time – is realized. Yet, I face that reality without fear or
regrets. I am resigned to death as all humans must be at the
proper time. Death neither alarms nor frightens one who has
had a long career of fruitful toil. The knowledge that my work
has been helpful to many fills me with joy and great
Since my retirement from an active role in educational work and
from the affairs of the National Council of Negro Women, I
have been living quietly and working at my desk at my home
here in Florida.
| The years
have directed a change of pace for me. I am now 78 years
old and my activities are no longer so strenuous as they
once were. I feel that I must conserve my strength to
finish the work at hand.
Already I have begun working on my autobiography which
will record my life-journey in detail, together with the
innumerable side trips which have carried me abroad, into
every corner of our country, into homes both lowly and
luxurious, and even into the White House to confer with
Presidents. I have also deeded my home and its contents to
the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation, organized in March,
1953, for research, interracial activity and the
sponsorship of wider educational opportunities.
Sometimes I ask myself
if I have any other legacy to leave. Truly, my worldly
possessions are few. Yet, my experiences have been rich.
From them, I have distilled principles and policies in
which I believe firmly, for they represent the meaning of
my life's work. They are the products of much sweat and
sorrow. Perhaps in them there is something of value. So,
as my life draws to a close, I will pass them on to
Negroes everywhere in the hope that an old woman's
philosophy may give them inspiration. Here, then is my
State Archives of Florida,
I had no furniture. I begged dry
goods boxes and made benches and stools; begged a basin
and other things I needed and in 1904 five little girls
here started school.
—Mary McLeod Bethune
LEAVE YOU LOVE. Love builds. It is positive and
helpful. It is more beneficial than hate. Injuries quickly
forgotten quickly pass away. Personally and racially, our
enemies must be forgiven. Our aim must be to create a world of
fellowship and justice where no man's skin, color or religion,
is held against him. "Love thy neighbor" is a precept which
could transform the world if it were universally practiced. It
connotes brotherhood and, to me, brotherhood of man is the
noblest concept in all human relations. Loving your neighbor
means being interracial, inter religious and international.
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.
I LEAVE YOU THE
CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING CONFIDENCE IN ONE ANOTHER.
As long as Negroes are hemmed into racial blocs by prejudice
and pressure, it will be necessary for them to band together
for economic betterment. Negro banks, insurance companies and
other businesses are examples of successful, racial economic
enterprises. These institutions were made possible by vision
and mutual aid. Confidence was vital in getting them started
and keeping them going. Negroes have got to demonstrate still
more confidence in each other in business. 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. Economic separatism cannot be
tolerated in this enlightened age, and it is not practicable.
We must spread out as far and as fast as we can, but we must
also help each other as we go.
I LEAVE YOU A THIRST FOR
EDUCATION. Knowledge is the prime need of the hour.
More and more, Negroes are taking full advantage of hard-won
opportunities for learning, and the educational level of the
Negro population is at its highest point in history. We are
making greater use of the privileges inherent in living in a
democracy. If we continue in this trend, we will be able to
rear increasing numbers of strong, purposeful men and women,
equipped with vision, mental clarity, health and education.
State Archives of Florida,
Established 1904 by Mary McLeod Bethune with 5 girls and
$1.50 cash in a rented cabin. By 1918 there was a four
story building called Faith Hall, a 2 story building used
for kitchen and a new $40,000 auditorium on 20 acres.
Classes offered in sewing, dressmaking, domestic science,
gardening, poultry raising, raffia work, rug weaving,
chair caning, broom making teacher and nurses training. An
additional building some distance from the campus was
fitted up for the education of boys and men.
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. During my
lifetime I have seen the power of the Negro grow enormously.
It has always been my first concern that this power should be
placed on the side of human justice.
Now that the barriers are
crumbling everywhere, the Negro in America must be ever
vigilant lest his forces be marshaled 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. We have great leaders among us today:
Ralph Bunche, Channing Tobias, Mordecai Johnson, Walter White,
and Mary Church Terrell. [The latter now deceased]. We have
had other great men and women in the past: Frederick Douglass,
Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. We
must produce more qualified people like them, who will work
not for themselves, but for others.
I LEAVE YOU FAITH.
Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service.
Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is
impossible. Faith in God is the greatest power, but great,
too, is faith in oneself. In 50 years the faith of the
American Negro in himself has grown immensely and is still
increasing. The measure of our progress as a race is in
precise relation to the depth of the faith in our people held
by our leaders. Frederick Douglass, genius though he was, was
spurred by a deep conviction that his people would heed his
counsel and follow him to freedom. Our greatest Negro figures
have been imbued with faith. Our forefathers struggled for
liberty in conditions far more onerous than those we now face,
but they never lost the faith. Their perseverance paid rich
dividends. We must never forget their sufferings and their
sacrifices, for they were the foundations of the progress of
State Archives of Florida,
Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute
during meal preparation. Mary McLeod Bethune is third from
I LEAVE YOU RACIAL DIGNITY. I want Negroes to
maintain their human dignity at all costs. We, as Negroes,
must recognize that we are the custodians as well as the heirs
of a great civilization. We have given something to the world
as a race and for this we are proud and fully conscious of our
place in the total picture of mankind's development. We must
learn also to share and mix with all men. We must make and
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.