From her home in this townhouse, Mary McLeod Bethune ran the National Council of Negro Women, one of the first organizations dedicated to African-American civil rights.
Born to former slaves and raised in the South during Reconstruction, Mary McLeod Bethune experienced prejudice and privation firsthand. She dedicated her life to ending racial inequity through education, political activism, and leadership.
Bethune started her career as a teacher, co-founding a school for Negro girls in Florida that rivaled white schools in the quality of its education.
Active in the National Association of Colored Women for years, Bethune was elected NACW’s national president in 1924. She moved to Washington and purchased the townhouse at 1318 Vermont Avenue, NW, to give the organization a presence and a voice in the nation’s capital. In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women to further that work.
A close advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, Bethune was named Director of the Office of Negro Affairs, National Youth Administration. She was the first African-American woman to head a federal agency.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site houses documents, photos, and artifacts that honor her life’s work and achievements.
If You Go:
Stop by Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill to see the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Statue, the first ever commissioned to honor an African-American woman.