Interview with Mary McLeod Bethune, ca. 1940
Here I met a young man, Albertus Bethune. He had a beautiful tenor voice.
And I called my men then from the scaffold and we bowed in prayer there together, thanking God for the supply. I could not help but remember the story of the building of the alter—how Abraham was commanded to build the alter and give an offering and when he looked around for a ram it was there. That is the kind of faith that has built Bethune-Cookman.
When I was sent to Lucy Laney, I was just out of school. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to teach with a woman like Lucy Laney. Haines Institute was the creation of her own soul and mind. She started in the basement of her church years ago for her people. She had Mamie McCrory (?) Jackson, Irene Smallwood (Bowen). I found them working with her. All were a great inspiration to me. How Mrs. Jackson stood side-by-side with Lucy Laney, gave twenty-five years of her life helping build Haines Institute—and Irene Smallwood who gave years and years. I was so happy for the chance to blend my life with the lives of those women—Lucy Laney with her spirit of service, quick steps, determination, will, alert mind, again demonstrated to me that it could be done. I studied her, watched her every move and gave myself full to the cause she represented. They knew no hour when service was needed.
Around Haines Institute there was the very thickly settled community—settled with colored people. On Sunday afternoons the streets were crowded with children, and having had such a fine opportunity for training at the Moody Institute, I felt that here was a chance to help children, and asked permission of Lucy Laney to start a mission Sunday School—she granted it.
I took the girls of the science class and my own class and went out and combed the alleys and streets and brought in hundreds of children until we had a Sunday School of almost a thousand young people and people in the community came in. Among whom was Judson Lyons and others.
This mission school lasted for years, and became one of the great assets of Haines Institute, Lucy Laney, the great inspirer, the great educator, the great leader among our group, fired me with greater ambition for service.
I remained with her for one year, after which I went to Sumter, North Carolina to work in another mission svhool(sic) there where I met my friend Estelle Roberts, now Estelle Harrison, and we together had our experience in helping develop the work of the Kindle Institute, headed by Rev. C.J. Watkins, another field for real service, never tiring…I gave my best. Meeting friends and working up interest—working with people in jails, with the under privileged, building Sunday Schools, with people in the community, young people’s meetings, in the choir of our church.
Here I met a young man, Albertus Bethune. He had a beautiful tenor voice. He was interested in the activities of the church, and a student at Avery Institute, Charleston, South Carolina. He lacked one year of completing his work there. He had to withdraw in order for his brother Jesse to enter school.
Bethune and I met, became well acquainted and loved. The following year we were quickly married. This married life was not intended to impede things I had in mind to do. He found business employment in Savannah, Georgia, where we moved and lived simply and quietly and remained there for sixteen months.
Then my only boy, Albertus, Junior was born. The birth of my boy had no tendency whatever to dim my ardor and determination for my dream work, the building of an institution.
Mr. Bethune was not interested in educational work, but put no barriers in my way to carry on my work. It was mine to struggle on alone. He died in the early years of my beginning, without realizing the possibilities of my ambitions.
(Something personal about Mr. Bethune? His background, etc.)
I met him after he was grown. He was reared in South Carolina and educated there. He was a very fine young man, with fine parentage and family—average in educational background and interested in business.