“A Negro woman has the same kind of problems as other women, but she can’t take the same things for granted.” – Dorothy Height, 1912-2010
Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010) was an African American administrator, educator and social activist as well as president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years and chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the largest civil rights organization in the USA. Dorothy was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Rankin, Pennsylvania where she was educated in public schools. In 1929, she was admitted to Barnard College but upon arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students per year. Eventually she did earn a degree in 1932 and a master’s degree in educational psychology in 1933. Dorothy has worked as a caseworker with the New York Welfare Department, has volunteered in Christian activist groups, served on the council to the White House conference “To Fulfill These Rights”, and was national president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority from 1946 to 1957. Height shared a platform with Dr. Martin Luther King during his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 and was an honored guest seated on the inauguration stage for President Barack Obama in 2009. Talk about honors.
In 2008, Dorothy told NPR that there is unfinished business in civil rights…
“We don’t need the marches we had in the past,” she said. “But we need more consideration in looking at the boardroom tables and at the policies that are going on — looking at what’s happening in industry, what’s happening in terms of employment opportunities, housing and the like.”
On March 25, 2010 Height was admitted to Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. for unspecified reasons. Her spokeswoman issued a statement stating that at that time she was in a “very serious, but stable” condition but that they were remaining optimistic about her recovery. On April 20, 2010, Height died at the age of ninety-eight.
Some of Dorothy Height’s Awards
William L. Dawson Award, 1974
Citizens Medal Award, 1989
Camille Cosby World of Children Award, 1990
Inducted into International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, 1991
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1994
7th Annual Heinz Award Chairman’s Medal, 2001
Molefi Kete Asante’s list of 100 Greatest African Americans, 2002
Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the U.S. Congress, 2004
More On Dorothy Height
Dorothy Height’s oral history video excerpts, The National Visionary Leadership Project
- “Dorothy Height,” Richmond Times Dispatch,1 February 2001. Available from http://www.timesdispatch.com/ (August 21, 2001).
- Hine, Darlene Clark, ed. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993.
- Luker, Ralph E. Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997.