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Article-a-Day #80: Smithsonian-Mary McLeod Bethune Was at the Vanguard of More Than 50 Years of Black Progress

Thanks to Bethune’s work that year to register and mobilize black voters in her hometown of Daytona, Florida, new black voters soon outnumbered new white voters in the city. But a reign of terror followed. That fall, the Ku Klux Klan marched on Bethune’s boarding school for black girls; two years later, ahead of the 1922 elections, the Klan paid another threatening visit, as over 100 robed figures carrying banners emblazoned with the words “white supremacy” marched on the school in retaliation against Bethune’s continued efforts to get black women to the polls. Informed of the incoming nightriders, Bethune took charge: “Get the students into the dormitory,” she told the teachers, “get them into bed, do not share what is happening right now.” The students safely tucked in, Bethune directed her faculty: “The Ku Klux Klan is marching on our campus, and they intend to burn some buildings.”