A Holistic Triangle of Ideas

Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Charlotte Hawkins Brown: "Education, religion, and deeds."

Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883-1961) took time off from PMI to travel and study. In Europe she shared ideas with the great African American educators Mary McLeod Bethune and Nannie Helen Burroughs. Together, these three women became known as the "Three Bs of Education," and it was Bethune who introduced Brown to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The "Three Bs" believed in combining a holistic triangle of ideas and lessons to achieve racial equality. Brown's triangle combined education, religion, and deeds; Bethune's triangle was "the head, the heart, and the hand," while Burroughs's was "the book, the Bible, and the broom."

Dr. Brown strove to apply these concepts through culture and liberal arts to achieve racial uplift. By the mid-1920s, she had achieved national recognition as an effective speaker and educator.

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune: "The head, the heart, and the hand."

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was one of seventeen children born to slave parents in Mayesville, South Carolina. Amazingly, young Bethune left home at age 11 to attend Scotia Seminary, where she cultivated an interest in missionary work. Bethune studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and after two years applied for missionary work in Africa. Her bid for work in Africa was unsuccessful, but Bethune soon accepted a teaching position at the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia. After several years, she moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, to pursue her dream of opening her own school. In 1904, in a rented house, she established the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, a school dedicated to high academic instruction and teacher training. Nine years later, Bethune's institute merged with the nearby Cookman Institute in 1923, and the new conglomerate became known as Bethune-Cookman College. This school, steeped in African American heritage, is still in operation today.

Nannie Helen Burroughs

Nannie Helen Burroughs: "The book, the Bible, and the broom."

Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879-1961) was a prolific writer, educator, orator, businesswoman, and Christian leader. She moved to Washington, D.C. as a young woman to take advantage of the city's superior educational opportunities. She dreamed of opening a school for African American girls to prepare them for a productive adult life. Burroughs, an active member of her church, organized a women's club that conducted evening classes in useful skills such as typewriting, bookkeeping, cooking, and sewing. Her leadership skills brought Ms. Burroughs the position of secretary of the Women's Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention. This organization supported missionary work and educational societies in Baptist churches throughout the nation. Ms. Burroughs's dream was realized in 1909, when she opened the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C.

Images from: Daniel, Sadie Iola. Women Builders. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1931.


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