Mary McLeod Bethune was another strong role model in the life of John Johnson. Born on July 10, 1875, Mary was the daughter of slaves. After the war, her family bought five acres of land near Mayesville, South Carolina. When Mary first saw books, she fell in love with them. As a child, a white child told Mary to “put that book down. You can’t read.” Mary took this as a personal challenge.
As with Booker T. and John, Mary had a strong mother, who had belief in herself and her child. As with the others, Mary had to work hard as a child and had no time to play. Mary had strong Black role models. As with the others, she found that many white people were also very supportive. Her white teachers showed her that a person’s color has nothing to do with the strength of his brain.
When Mary ran into frustrations, she would always keep going. Just as with Booker and John, she found that many times, these disappointments led to something better in her life. Failure was not in Mary’s vocabulary. If she didn’t acquire the results she wanted in one way, she did it in another.
As with the others, Mary set a goal and followed through to the end. She also felt that it would elevate the pride and ambitions of Blacks to know of the history and achievements of other Blacks. She spent much time lecturing to others on Black history.
All three people recognized and seized an opportunity when it appeared: Mary with Daytona Normal School; Booker T. Washington with Tuskegee; John with the NEGRO DIGEST. All three turned to whites as well as Blacks to fulfill their dreams. In all cases, rich white people were very supportive to their causes.
Mary, unlike the others, did not always have the support of her spouse. Her husband left her. He didn’t understand her dedication to the school.