Noliwe Rooks at Harvard Book Store


A Passionate Mind in Relentless Pursuit:
The Vision of Mary McLeod Bethune


July 24, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes NOLIWE ROOKS—chair of and a professor in Africana Studies at Brown University—for a discussion of her new book A Passionate Mind in Relentless Pursuit: The Vision of Mary McLeod Bethune.

About A Passionate Mind in Relentless Pursuit

When Mary McLeod Bethune died, tributes in newspapers around the country said the same thing: she should be on the Mount Rushmore of Black American achievement. Indeed, Bethune is the only Black American whose statue stands in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol, and yet for most, she remains a marble figure from the dim past. Now, seventy years later, Noliwe Rooks turns Bethune from stone to flesh, showing her to have been a visionary leader with lessons to still teach us as we continue on our journey toward a freer and more just nation.

Any serious effort to understand how the Black civil rights generation found role models, vision, and inspiration during their midcentury struggle for political power must place Bethune at its heart. Her success was unlikely: the fifteenth of seventeen children and the first born into freedom, Bethune survived brutal poverty and caste subordination to become the first in her family to learn how to read and to attend college. She gave that same gift to others when in 1904, at age twenty-nine, Bethune welcomed her first class of five girls to the Daytona, Florida, school she had founded and which would become the university that bears her name to this day. Bethune saw education as an essential dimension of the larger struggle for freedom, vitally connected to the vote and to economic self-sufficiency, and she enlisted Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and many other powerful leaders in her cause.

Rooks grew up in Florida, in Bethune’s shadow: her grandmother trained to be a teacher at Bethune-Cookman University, and her family vacationed at the all-Black beach that Bethune helped found in one of her many community empowerment projects. The story of how Bethune succeeded in a state with some of the highest lynching rates in the country is, in Rooks’s hands, a moving and astonishing example of the power of a mind and a vision that had few equals. Now, when the stakes of the long struggle for full Black equality in this country are particularly evident—and centered on the state of Florida—it is a gift to have this brilliant and lyrical reckoning with Bethune’s journey from one of our own great educators and scholars of that same struggle.

Praise for A Passionate Mind in Relentless Pursuit

"Professor Noliwe Rooks draws on her command of historical events, her lived experiences as a Black woman, and her gift as a storyteller to give us this priceless written portrait of the life, the work, and the legacy of an American shero, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune." —Johnnetta Betsch Cole, seventh president and chair of the board of the NCNW, president emerita of Spelman and Bennett college 

“In reflecting on Mary McLeod Bethune’s life and on her own, Noliwe Rooks offers a tribute to an inspiring leader and a meditation on race and history.” —Drew Faust, Arthur Kingsley Porter University Research Professor, Harvard University

“Noliwe Rooks's exceptional storytelling and impeccable research skills elevate this book to the pinnacle of works about Mary McLeod Bethune. It transcends historical narrative; it challenges us to reevaluate our understanding of Bethune's contributions and the lessons they offer us now.  Interwoven with the story of Bethune's indomitable spirit for advancing Black life is Rooks's own family history, rooted in Florida like Bethune and shaped by her legacy. Learning about Bethune through Rooks's lens is both a privilege and an honor for educators and readers alike.” —Bettina L. Love, William F. Russell Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event. 

Noliwe Rooks
Noliwe Rooks

Noliwe Rooks

Noliwe Rooks is the chair of and a professor in Africana Studies at Brown University. Her work explores how race and gender both impact and are impacted by popular culture, social history, and political life in the United States. The author of four books and numerous articles, essays, and op-eds, Rooks has received research funding from the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, among other organizations. She lectures frequently at colleges and universities around the country and is a regular contributor to popular outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Time, and NPR.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.

While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.

Ordering a signed book on

  • Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
  • Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
  • Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.

Ordering a signed book by phone:

  • Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
  • If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.


Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.

Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!

Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.

I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.

More questions? Give us a call!

General Info
(617) 661-1515

Media Inquiries

Accessibility Inquiries

Classic Totes

Tote bags and pouches
in a variety of styles,
sizes, and designs
, plus mugs, bookmarks, and more!

Learn More »

Shipping & Pickup

We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $75+ ship free via media mail!

Learn More »

Noteworthy Signed Books: Join the Club!

Join our Signed First Edition Club (or give a gift subscription) for a signed book of great literary merit, delivered to you monthly.

Learn More »