"As a small child, Mary Jane McLeod would routinely accompany her mother to deliver the "white people's" wash. Allowed into the white children's nursery, Mary would find amusement playing with their toys. In one instance, she curiously opened a book. Immediately, one of the white children snatched it from her exclaiming, "Put that down. You can't read!" Mary thought, "Maybe the difference between white folks and colored is just this matter of reading and writing." At that moment, the seeds for a life of learning and teaching were planted.
During the 1930's, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was head of the National Council of Negro Women. Using her professional relationship with President Franklin Roosevelt and friendship with First Lady Eleanor, she successfully lobbied against segregation and for integration of the New Deal's Pilot Training program. Her efforts resulted in West Virginia State College becoming the first black school to institute an aviation program and eventually the creation of the Tuskegee Institute.
Click here to listen to former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt interviewing her friend Mary McLeod Bethune in a 1949 radio broadcast in support of 'interracial understanding' courtesy of WNYC.
You can read more at the PBS Biography of Mary McLeod Bethune.