February 11, 2011; Washington, DC.
Contact: Alison Mann, Washington Foreign Press Center
Telephone: 202-504-6332; email: email@example.com
On February 11, as part of several historical and cultural programs highlighting Black History Month, the Foreign Press Center accompanied foreign journalists from China and Spain on a tour of the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington, DC, a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. The site was significant as a center for the development of strategies and programs which advanced the interests of African American women and the black community. The home was the residence of Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), renowned educator, national political leader, and founder of the Council of Negro Women. The Council operated out of the home from 1943-1966. As a result of the tour, journalists learned that the history of American civil rights had a long history previous to Martin Luther King Jr., and were surprised to learn that an African American woman had such a pivotal role in political activism—serving under four presidents from Coolidge to Truman, most significantly as a close advisor to President Roosevelt on African American advancement, and as the head of the federal National Youth Administration. Bethune was also responsible for breaking the racial barrier of the Women Auxiliary Corp (WACS) during WWII. In 1943, under her continued pressure, African American women were deployed overseas, and given full participation in the organization.