Jersey City unveils statue to civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune


A nine-foot bronze monument honoring civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune was unveiled by Jersey City officials on Saturday.

The statue complements the brand new park named after her and is the city’s first statue to honor an African-American woman. Bethune Park is located across from the Bethune Community Center.

“This monument not only pays homage to a historic civil rights leader, but it also complements the much-needed park to signify a bright future where children now play together on the new playground, neighbors can bond at game tables and listen to music and other events in the amphitheater’s host community, ”said Mayor Steve Fulop.

“This pandemic has underscored the growing need for accessible outdoor spaces to enable more passive recreational and community activities. This is exactly what Bethune Park offers our residents of Greenville and all of Jersey City. In addition, this statue of Mrs. Bethune places particular emphasis on the importance of education and perseverance, which will enable our residents today and for generations to come, ”said the president of the municipal council, Joyce Watterman.

Bethune Center director Alvin Pettit said the Jersey City sculpture was inspired by a younger version of Bethune in her late twenties to early thirties than other statues of her.

“As an artist, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to make such a lasting contribution to the city I have lived in for 30 years,” he said.

The $ 3.5 million Bethune Park, funded by a community development block grant and capital funding, features an amphitheater / concert stage, outdoor pavilion, shaded seating area, game tables, a playground and exercise equipment. The park can be used for recreation, celebrations, farmers’ markets, and other community events. A new car park with charging stations for electric vehicles has also been set up nearby in order to preserve the existing parking offer.

Bethune founded several organizations and led voter registration campaigns after women gained the right to vote in 1920. In 1924 she was elected president of the National Association of Clubs of Women of Color and in 1935, she became the founding president of the National Council of Black Women.

In 1936, Bethune became the most senior African American woman in government when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her director of black affairs for the National Youth Administration, where she remained until 1944. In 1937, Bethune held a conference on problems of negroes and negroes. youth, and fought to end discrimination and lynching. In 1940, she became vice-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a position she held for the rest of her life.

Also involved in many other organizations and activities, Bethune was the only woman of color at the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945.

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