HER PORTRAIT HANGS in the S.C. State House. She has been honored with a monument in Washington, D.C., a U.S. Postal Service stamp, and two homes listed as national historic sites. Schools across the country bear her name.
Now South Carolinians will see the name and face of Sumter County native Mary McLeod Bethune across the state on a new special license plate that recognizes Bethune’s extraordinary accomplishments and national impact in education and civil rights.
The new plate was conceived by Jereleen Holliman-Miller, Bethune’s great-grandniece, and her husband, Ed, members of Black River Electric Cooperative.
“A lot of children do not know about Mary McLeod Bethune or even that she’s from South Carolina,” Miller says. “But that’s our daughter, that’s our history.”
Bethune’s remarkable achievements grew from her commitment to improving the lives of African- Americans through education. Born in Mayesville in 1875 to former slaves, she rose to prominence as an educator, founding Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, Fla., and serving as an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.
“Dr. Bethune left a blazing trail, not just in South Carolina,” Miller says. “That’s a great legacy that lives on and gives hope.”
The Bethune license plate is the first in the state to honor an individual.
The fee for the plate is $30 every two years. Proceeds will support S.C. projects and tourism related to Bethune, including a planned museum and restaurant, a nature trail and scholarships.