Mary McLeod Bethune
First African American woman to head a federal agency division
Renowned educator and reformer Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955) dedicated her life to organizing and empowering African American women to work for equality. In 1904, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, a school for Black girls that gave Florida students the tools they needed to become community leaders. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her director of the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration, making her the first African American woman to head a division of a federal agency. Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 and acted as their first president. The council influenced civil rights, education, U.S. relations with Africa, and other 20th-century movements.