Mary Mcleod Bethune was one of the country’s finest and most accomplished citizens, working in her time as an educator, presidential advisor, Civil Rights activist, politician, and a leader of men. A statue in her honor was erected in July of 1974 in Lincoln Park, the largest park on Capitol Hill, making it the first monument dedicated to an African American woman in a public park.
The memorial statue designed by artist Robert Berks depicts Mary Mcleod Bethune supported on a cane gifted to her by President Roosevelt handing off her legacy in the form of a scroll to two young children. Bethune’s philosophy can be summarized by the last lines of the statue’s inscription: “I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you finally, with a responsibility to our young people.” The illustration of the memorial, coupled with the inscription, perfectly encompasses Bethune’s lifelong ambition to create a lasting positive effect on the education of American children and her tenacity in abolishing the barriers of inequality. Bethune’s statue looks out over the expanse of the park towards the Emancipation Group statue featuring President Lincoln, drawing a parallel to their shared work in civil rights and leadership. The statue was commissioned and funded by the National Council of Negro Women, an organization that Bethune herself founded, and dedicated on the anniversary of her 99th birthday.
The memorial and Lincoln Park are open for visitors 24 hours a day.