Florida Memory will be down for scheduled maintenance today, October 31st, from 5 pm until 7 pm. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Daniel Williams’s Documents for the Mary McLeod Bethune Biography

Information for Teachers

Background Information

Charles S. Johnson’s Interview with Mary McLeod Bethune

The first document represents a portion of an interview with Mary McLeod Bethune conducted in 1939 or 1940 by Fisk University president Charles S. Johnson.

The interview includes Bethune’s memories of her childhood in South Carolina. She recalls the exact moment that instilled in her the desire to learn to read and write.

Then Bethune talks about her formal education at Scotia in North Carolina and subsequent move to Savannah, Georgia and then Daytona Beach, Florida. Bethune also discusses her perceptions of Europe during her overseas travel.

Towards the end of the interview, Bethune reflects on the difficulties experienced in the early days of her school and her eventual success in providing educational opportunities to the African-American community.

The interview and other documents were collected by Daniel M. Williams, who planned to write a biography of Bethune. Williams worked on newspapers in Texas, New York, and Washington, D.C., and was chief editorial writer for the World-Telegram in the early 1930s. He also covered the White House and State Department for Trans-Radio Press during World War II.

Williams accumulated photographs, publications, and newspaper clippings for the book and conducted several interviews with Bethune in the summer of 1946, but never completed the manuscript.

Questions to Bethune

Williams appears to have used the interview conducted by Johnson as the basis for a series of questions to Bethune. Williams questioned Bethune about her feelings and recollections on a variety of subjects, including race relations, education, her childhood and personal relationships. This was part of an ongoing discussion with Bethune regarding the planned biography. In the document, Williams mentions that he will enclose a chapter of the book.

Excerpt from a Rough Draft of the Biography of Bethune

These pages represent fragments from an unfinished biography written by Daniel Williams about Mary McLeod Bethune. This particular section includes Williams’ portrayal of the moment from Bethune’s childhood when she became determined to learn to read. 

Use to Illustrate:

  • Bethune’s memories of her life and work.
  • Bethune’s role as an educator from early life to her school in Daytona.
  • How to “read between the lines” to determine implied meanings and intentions.
  • How authors write about history using primary sources.
  • The difference between primary and secondary sources.
  • The role of interpretation and literary license in historical writing.

Relevant NGSSS

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.

  • SS.4.A.6.3: Describe the contributions of significant individuals to Florida.
    Examples may include, but are not limited to, John Gorrie, Henry Flagler, Henry Plant, Lue Gim Gong, Vincente Martinez Ybor, Julia Tuttle, Mary McLeod Bethune, Thomas Alva Edison, James Weldon Johnson, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

  • SS.4.A.8.1: Identify Florida’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.
    Examples may include, but are not limited to, Tallahassee Bus Boycotts, civil disobedience, and the legacy of early civil rights pioneers, Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore.

  • SS.8.A.5.7: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as each impacts this era of American history.
    Examples may include, but are not limited to, slavery, influential planters, Florida’s secession and Confederate membership, women, children, pioneer environment, Union occupation, Battle of Olustee and role of 54th Massachusetts regiment, Battle at Natural Bridge.

  • SS.912.A.7.7: Assess the building of coalitions between African-Americans, whites, and other groups in achieving integration and equal rights.
    Examples may include, but are not limited to, Freedom Summer, Freedom Rides, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956, March on Washington.

  • SS.912.A.3.13: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as they relate to United States history.
    Examples are the railroad industry, bridge construction in the Florida Keys, the cattle industry, the cigar industry, the influence of Cuban, Greek and Italian immigrants, Henry B. Plant, William Chipley, Henry Flagler, George Proctor, Thomas DeSales Tucker, Hamilton Disston.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  • LAFS.68.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

  • LAFS.68.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • LAFS.910.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

  • LAFS.910.RH.2.6: Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

  • LAFS.910.RH.3.9: Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

  • LAFS.1112.RH.2.5: Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.