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To Turn the Whole World OverBlack Women and Internationalism$
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Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042317

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042317.001.0001

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“United, We Build a Free World”

“United, We Build a Free World”

The Internationalism of Mary McLeod Bethune and the National Council of Negro Women

(p.192) Chapter 9 “United, We Build a Free World”
To Turn the Whole World Over

Grace V. Leslie

University of Illinois Press

A renowned educator, founder of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and leader of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet, Mary McLeod Bethune is one of the century’s most famous African American women. This essay traces the trajectory of Bethune’s internationalism. In an era dominated by W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, Bethune preached a vision of human rights that was deeply informed by her lifelong mission to better the lives of black women. When the Cold War descended, Bethune remade her internationalism to walk the tightrope of Cold War civil rights. Foregrounding Bethune reveals a black internationalist sphere in which women played a central role and where debates over global conceptions of “full and equal freedom” redefined the quest for equality that shaped American political development in the twentieth century.

Keywords:   Mary McLeod Bethune, National Council of Negro Women, Education, Race, civil rights, human rights, Cold War, politics

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