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Mary Bethune Park

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  1. Horseshoe Pits
  2. Picnic Shelters
  3. Playground
  4. Restrooms
  5. Walking Track

In 1941, the Bethune Women’s Club was organized in Rocky Mount to promote the needs of African Americans in Franklin County. Mrs. Gladys Banks Smith was elected as the organization’s first president. One of the first needs addressed was to provide a playground for black children to have a safe haven to play and where families could socialize. A fundraising effort was begun, and land was acquired from the Muse family at the site where the park stands today. The park was named in honor of Mary Bethune, a black female social leader, educator, and co-founder of Bethune-Cookman College in Florida. In 1945, Mary Bethune was invited to visit Franklin County as a guest speaker at the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial. She was later introduced to the Bethune Women’s Club member and visited the park, which had been named in her honor.

In 1945, the Bethune Women’s Club was chartered as a professional women’s club by the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the early 1950’s, the club, concerned over the deteriorating condition of the Booker T. Washington birthplace in Franklin County, organized local support and petitioned Governor Stanley and the Virginia General Assembly to pay off the indebtedness of the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial. Through the tireless efforts of the Bethune Women’s Club and Sidney J. Phillips, President Eisenhower authorized the Booker T. Washington National Monument on April 2, 1956. Booker T. Washington National Monument serves today as a monument to Dr. Washington and his lifelong dedication to improving the quality of life for African-Americans through education.

Today, Mary Bethune Park is a small neighborhood park at the cul-de-sac of East Street. The park houses a large picnic shelter, playground, walking track, restroom facilities and horseshoe pits.

Picnic shelter rentals are available daily from April 1 to October 15. Contact the Town offices at 540-483-0907 for rental reservations. To complete the reservation, fill out the Park Shelter Reservation Application (PDF) and follow the instructions to return to the Town.