LESSON

Mary McLeod Bethune

In this lesson, students will read an excerpt of an interview given by Mary McLeod Bethune and will learn that she founded the Daytona National and Industrial School for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904. Through close reading, they will explore and discuss connections between events from Bethune’s life experiences and their own lives, and connections between past and current events.
Grade Level

Objectives

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe details about the life of Mary McLeod Bethune.
  • make connections between the experiences of Bethune and their own experiences.

 

Essential Questions
  • How did African-American men and women strive for equality before the modern civil rights movement?
  • What was the historical significance of schools for African Americans?
  • Enduring Understandings
    • Before the modern civil rights movement, African-American men and women strived for equality by working hard to learn skills. Those who had acquired literacy skills and job skills taught others, hoping to help them raise their standard of living.
    • Schools for African Americans were historically significant because they enabled black people to have a formal education. Going to school helped meet African-Americans’ desire for knowledge and instilled pride, showing them they could learn to read like white children. The schools gave African Americans opportunities to learn about the world outside of their local communities and showed them that they had a chance to be as successful as many white people were.
Materials

Overview

Most history textbooks include the story of Rosa Parks, an African-American woman whose act of defiance—refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man—sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a cornerstone of the mid-20th-century movement for African-American equality. But Rosa Parks is only one among many African-American women who worked for equal rights and social justice. This series profiles four other important female civil rights activists.In this third lesson of the series, “Beyond Rosa Parks: Powerful Voices for Civil Rights and Social Justice,” students will read an excerpt of an interview given by Mary McLeod Bethune and will learn that she founded the Daytona National and Industrial School for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904. Students will discover that Bethune worked in support of African-American equality decades before the modern civil rights movement. They will see how profoundly Bethune’s early experience of discrimination affected her life. Through close reading, they will explore and discuss connections between events from Bethune’s life experiences and their own lives, and connections between past and current events. Bethune became a nationally renowned educator and, informally, an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.

Vocabulary

aspire [uh-spahy-uhr] (verb) to seek to attain or be eagerly desirous of a goal, especially for something great or of high value

incentives [in-sen-tivs] (noun) things that incite or tend to incite to action or greater effort, as a reward offered for increased productivity

philanthropic [fil-uhn-throp-ik] (adjective) related to the dispensing or receiving aid from funds set aside for humanitarian purposes

slates [slāt] (noun) a small sheets of slate in wooden frames that were used in schools in the past for writing on with chalk

wound [woond] (noun) an injury often caused when something cuts or breaks the skin 

Suggested Procedure

Word Work

Explain how students will learn unfamiliar words: “In this lesson you will use a graphic organizer to help you learn and remember some new words you’ll discover in the text. Four words have been highlighted—wound, slates, incentives and aspire. Write each word at the center of a 3- x 5-inch card and circle the word. Then divide the area around the word into four sections. Label the top areas “Definition” and “Characteristics.” Label the bottom areas “Example” and “Non-Example.” Working on your own or with a partner, fill in the sections of the cards for each of the four words. Then create word cards for any other words you are not familiar with in the text. After completing the cards, return to the text and read the sentences that contain the words, making sure you understand the meaning. Sav

 

Close and Critical Reading

Text to Self - Text to Text - Text to World

1. Building Knowledge

Ask students to read the interview with Mary McLeod Bethune. Then invite them to respond to the questions using short answers. (Mention that the questions are to help them clarify their understanding of the reading, and that you will not be collecting their work):

  • What incident from her childhood does Mary McLeod Bethune describe?
  • How does she say she felt when the incident happened?
  • In what conditions did Mary and other black children live?
  • How did going to school affect Mary and the children she knew?
  • How did it affect her family?
  • How did Mary’s experience affect her choices in the future?

2. Understanding the Purpose and the Main Idea

Ask students, “What is the central purpose of the text? In other words, why was this text created? What is the most important thing you learned from it?”

3. Text-to-Self Connections

Pose this question: “How does the content of the text connect to your life? You might use this prompt to get you started: This text reminds me of the time that I ______________________________________________________.

4. Text-to-Text Connections

Ask, “How does the content of the text connect to other things you have read, heard or seen? You might use this prompt to get you started: This text reminds me of a book I read/movie I saw because _________________________________.

5. Text-to-World Connections

Ask, “How does the content of the text connect to events in the present or past? You might use one of these prompts to get you started: This text reminds me of what I saw on the news about ____________

OR

This text reminds me of something I learned in history class about _____________.

 

Community Inquiry

Divide the class into groups of three or four students. Let each group discuss the interview using its members’ answers to the Close and Critical Reading questions. Have students sit in a circle. Start with one person answering the first question. Have the second answer the second question, and so on, for numbers 1 and 2 of the Close and Critical Reading section.

Text-to-self, text-to-text and text-to-world connections may be discussed by all students who want to share what they have written. In groups, have students discuss the similarities and differences among the connections group members made with the text. Ask students: “Overall, how relevant do you and your group members find the interview’s content almost 75 years after it was written? Explain how you reached your answer.”

 

Write to the Source

Explore the content of the interview with your students. Note that Mary McLeod Bethune talks about a childhood experience she had; how that experience affected her at the time; and how it affected important decisions she made in her life. She used the injustice she experienced as an incentive to make a positive difference for black Americans. Ask students to write a paragraph summarizing this aspect of the interview. Then ask all students to write a second paragraph describing an experience they have had, how that experience affected them at the time; and how they think it may affect them in the future. Say, “Focus on an experience in which you recognized or experienced an injustice. Write about how it made you feel and how you might make it right.”

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts CCSS: R.1, R.2, R.5, R.6, R.10, W.1, W.2, W.4, W.9, SL.1, SL.4, L.1, L.2, L.3, L.4, L.6

 

Extension Activity

1. Use photographs to find out more about Mary McLeod Bethune. Invite students to study these photos and answer these questions: “What do the photos reveal about the woman? What questions do the photos raise for you? Where can you find answers to those questions?”

2. Mary McLeod Bethune was one of many African-American women and men who developed schools for African Americans. Challenge students to research another such school and present their findings to the class.

 

Do Something

Explain: “By reading this interview, you had a chance to think about how one woman responded to prejudice. Not everyone understands how painful prejudice can be, and how powerfully it can affect a person’s life. Now think about how you might educate others about how bigotry affects individuals.” Choose different students to take the role of Mary McLeod Bethune and ask them to prepare a speech to give to other classes in which each one (as Mary) explains discrimination and its effects.