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Dr. Dorothy I Height

Dr. Dorothy Irene Height was born in Richmond, Virginia on March, 24, 1912. She spent most of her life in social service as an activist for both women’s rights and civil rights. James Farmer credited her with bringing the women’s movement into the civil rights struggle. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

She began her career working to prevent lynching and desegregation. She worked for many years for the YWCA. At the age of 25, she joined the National Council for Negro Women, and was the President of the NCNW from 1957 – 1997. Dr. Height encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in the government.

In the 1960’s, Height worked on the forefront of the civil rights movement alongside civil rights pioneers  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins. She helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and stood on the platform when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.  Even though she was also present, the men were known as the “Big Six.” Dorothy Height, the only woman, was the seventh, “invisible one.” In early photographs, she stood on the end of the group of men, and photographers left her out of the pictures. So then she started standing in the middle of the group.

Dorothy Height did not receive enough attention for her work; yet the effects of her efforts have benefited all. When she received the 2009 Foremother Award, she stated, “We will see more and more women moving into places until we have a society in which you do not have to stop and look at one group or another, but we have equality and justice and freedom and dignity for all.”

ICareVillage interviewed Dr. Height on March 22, 2010 in her office at the National Council for Negro Women in Washington, D.C. This was her final interview. She passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98 years old. President Obama delivered her eulogy at the Washington National Cathedral on April 29, 2010.