Civil rights activist, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, died today at age 98. In her long and distinguished career she was an educator and civil rights activist. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 during the Clinton administration.(photo: wikipedia)
President Obama made this comment on her life, calling her “the godmother of the civil rights movement”:
Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality … and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement — witnessing every march and milestone along the way.
Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. At an early age, she moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania. Height was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students. She pursued studies instead at New York University, earning a degree in 1932, and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year.
Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. . . . In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi” . . . which brought together black and white women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding.
American leaders regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Height also encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government. In the mid 1960s, Height wrote a column entitled “A Woman’s Word” for the weekly African-American newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News.
She will be greatly missed.