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Remembering Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator and civil rights trailblazer

Dr. Bethune of Sumter County advised multiple U.S. presidents, founded Bethune-Cookman University in Florida among other things.

MAYESVILLE, S.C. — Just outside the small Sumter County town of Mayesville, a civil rights trailblazer was born.

Her name was Mary McLeod Bethune. She was a child of former slaves who rose from humble beginnings in the 1800s to become a world-renowned educator, civil rights leader and champion for women and young people.

Mayesville Mayor Jereleen Miller said she’s a descendent of Bethune’s.

“She could see young children just like herself that had a yearning to be much better than what the climate at that time would afford a young person like herself,” Miller said. “Equality as a right to have, education was a right to have …. She impacted all of that to try to make the world a better place.”

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Bethune went on to become an advisor to five U.S. Presidents, found Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, and lead numerous organizations in the fight against inequality, including the National Council of Negro Women.

In Mayesville, a museum sits in her honor.

“It tells a story of her legacy along with those, the generation that came behind her,” Miller said.

It’s still a work in progress, but Miller hopes that Bethune’s legacy will have a lasting impact on Mayesville and beyond.

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“Just someone that you can see on the wall that look like you. That came from the state of South Carolina…. It’s a yearning, I believe, that you know who you are and you can be better,” Miller said. “This is a good history lesson. African American history; Black History Month…. Black history can be taught every day. Not only at school, it can be taught at home. Just learn something different, every day.”