This week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to Dr. Dorothy Height – educator, social worker, lifelong activist, and the woman whom former President Obama calls the “godmother of the civil rights movement.” Dr. Height fought fiercely for change and some of the programs she founded are still operating today.
Dr. Height’s talents as a speaker were showcased in high school, when she won a national oratory contest. The prize was a college scholarship, and as she was about to matriculate at Barnard, she was informed the school had already met its quota (of TWO black students) and therefore she was not welcome. Instead of quitting, she enrolled at New York University. In just four years, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in psychology.
Dr. Height was a true visionary. She was president of the National Council of Negro Women for more than 40 years. She led the organization through the civil rights movement of the 60s and stood close to Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior while he delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” speech. She was involved in the integration of the YWCA and she established the Center for Racial Justice in 1965, running the organization for 12 years. In the summer of 1964, she launched “Wednesdays in Mississippi” – a project that brought black and white women to Jackson to meet with southern women, many of whom held the belief that civil rights leaders were “radicals.” Finding common ground, alleviating stigma, opening lines of communication between northern and southern women, black and white women – no small feat back in 1964! Two years later, the movement was renamed “Workshops in Mississippi” and refocused on helping poor women. Projects that stemmed from it are still operating today.
In 1971, alongside Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus – it’s also still operating today and is the only national organization dedicated solely to increasing women’s participation in politics and public life. She encouraged former President Dwight Eisenhower to desegregate schools and she was consulted by former President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
One thing Dorothy Height wasn’t familiar with – quitting. She remained an activist in her later years and celebrated her 90th birthday with a fundraiser for the organization she headed for more than 40 years, the National Council for Negro Women. In 2003, she published a memoir entitled Open Wide the Freedom Gates.
Dr. Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and received the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 2004. Also in 2004, she received an honorary degree from Barnard – yes, the same school that once refused to admit her! Two years ago, at the start of Black History Month, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating her. Dr. Height died in 2010.
#WCW #BlackHistoryMonth #Equality #Never Give Up #DoGoodBeGood