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How Mary McLeod Bethune Became a Pioneer in Black Education

One of 17 children born to formerly enslaved people, Mary McLeod Bethune spent the first few years of her life picking cotton as her family worked to buy the land on which they had been enslaved. At age 10, Bethune became the first and only child in her family to go to school, walking miles each way to get there. She understood the importance of education from an early age and did her best to share her newfound knowledge with her family. “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read,” Bethune said.



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