Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dr. Dorothy Height Dies

Another of the sheroes of the 60's civil rights movement has moved on. Dr. Dorothy Height, the Godmother of the women's movement', passed away at Howard University Hospital at 3:41 AM EDT this morning at age 98.

Dr. Height was born in Richmond, VA on March 24, 1912 and grew up in Rankin, Pennsylvania. While in high school because of her oratorical skills she was given a scholarship to Barnard College in New York.

Unfortunately Barnard College had a policy in place at the time in which it admitted only two African-American students a year, and she arrived on campus after two others had been enrolled. She pursued studies at New York University, earning her Master's degree in psychology and her doctoral studies at Columbia.

While she was most noted for her long tenure as chair and president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957-1988, and a past chair of the Leadership Conference On Civil Rights, she began her civil rights work in 1933 as a leader in the United Christian Youth Movement of North America.

Some of the issues she fought for at that time were stopping lynchings and desegregating the armed forces.

In addition to being mentored by women such as Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt, she counseled presidents on civil rights and women's issues from FDR to Obama.

She was one of the original 'Big Six' civil rights leaders, and was in attendance at the recent White House meeting President Obama held with African-American leaders on race and the economy.

She has garnered numerous awards and honors including induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993, the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1993, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 by President Clinton and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

She was also given during Barnard College's 1980 commencement ceremony its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction.

She had a front row seat to many of the events that shaped our lives and worked alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., future congressman John Lewis, and A. Philip Randolph. She was one of the people sitting behind Dr. King the day he gave his 1963 'I Have A Dream' speech'.

She was president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. from 1946-1957 and remained active in the organization throughout her life.

Former US Secretary of Labor Alexis W. Herman said about her, "She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn't about the many years of her life, but what she did with them."

She is one of my leadership role models, and if I ever become one tenth of what she meant to our community, I'd consider it a great achievement.

Rest Dr. Height. You have earned it.

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