For the past seventy-one years+, the Mary McLeod Bethune Day Nursery, Inc. has proudly carried on the traditions of its namesake-Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of slaves, who became a nationally recognized educator. She believed in the importance of building solid educational foundations in children, especially disadvantaged minority children. She built a popular and growing institution to further that effort that still bears her name: Bethune-Cookman College, Jacksonville, Florida.
Bethune Day Nursery (Bethune) was founded in 1942, in Corpus Christi, at a time when discrimination was rampant in our community. Until the Establishment of Bethune Day Nursery, most Negro families were forced to leave their children at home while they worked.
Very early in the 1940’s a tragedy occurred in the city. The home of a local Negro family caught fire. The mother was working in another part of town and had left her two small children at home alone. One child was severely burned and permanently scared, the other died. That incident prompted community leaders, including the late Bernice Leonard, the late Mary Holdsworth Butt, the late Ernestine Bibbs, and many others to take immediate action. These women raised the requisite funds to establish Bethune. The center became the first center for Negro children in the area and the first integrated center.
Bethune opened in a five-room frame house at 1403 Howard Street, with ten Negro children. Since its inception, Bethune has had to relocate to larger quarters several times to accommodate its increased enrollment. In 1981, Bethune finally secured its permanent home at 900 Kinney Street.
Atty. Charles Smith
Jimmie McCurn, NAC, CCHC, PBS
This year, we anticipate serving over 300 children ranging in age from birth to eleven years, representing most of the ethnic and racial groups in the area. A large percentage of these children are from low income, single parent families. Through a collaborative effort, Bethune is serving the homeless children to help their parents secure job training.
Bethune’s fascinating history is interfaced with many heartwarming stories of people who have been impacted by the center. There are single fathers who have been given custody of their children, single mothers, teenage parents and its welfare to work parents.
Bethune’s impact on its children is immeasurable. Bethune offers children the continuity and stability needed during their formative years. Bethune teaches the children the loving relationships they can enjoy with children from different backgrounds. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world could learn that we can get along?