At 98, Dorothy Height was a highly respected, longtime civil rights leader, 2004 Congressional Award winner, and the 10th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (1946-1957) She led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years as its president from 1957 to 1997. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and was a confidant and adviser to The Rev. martin Luther King, Jr. She remained active with the Council and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority until her death. In both organizations, she developed leadership training programs and education programs. A profile will be presented in the National Council of Negro Women, Thursday, April 22 issue of Our Time Press.
Dr. Dorothy I. Height
Chair and President Emerita
National Council of Negro Women
For nearly half a century, Dorothy Irene Height has given leadership to the struggle for equality and human rights for all people. Her life exemplifies her passionate commitment for a just society and her vision of a better world.
* Dorothy Height was born in Richmond, Virginia March 24, 1912, and educated in public schools in Rankin, Pa, a borough of Pittsburgh, where her family moved when she was four.
* Height established herself early as a dedicated student with exceptional oratorical skills. After winning a $1,000 scholarship in a national oratorical contest on the United States Constitution, sponsored by the Elks, and a record of scholastic excellence, she attended New York University and earned her bachelor and master’s degrees in four years. She did postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work.
* In 1933, Height became a leader of the United Christian Youth Movement of North America in the New Deal era. It was during this period that Height’s career as a civil rights advocate began to unfold, as she worked to prevent lynching, desegregate the armed forces, reform the criminal justice system and for free access to public accommodations.
* Height was named to deal with the outcome of the Harlem riot of 1935.
Height was an organizer and served as Vice President of the United Christian Youth Movement of North America. In this capacity she was chosen as one of 10 American youth delegates to the World Conference on Life and Work of the Churches in Oxford England. Two years later (1939), she was a representative of the YWCA to the World Conference of Christian Youth in Amsterdam Holland.
* 1937 was the turning point in the life of Dorothy Height. She was serving as Assistant Executive Director of the Harlem YWCA when Mary McLeod Bethune, founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women, noticed young Height who was escorting Eleanor Roosevelt into the NCNW meeting. Mrs. Bethune invited Height to join NCNW in her quest for women’s rights to full and equal employment, pay and education.
* In 1938, Height was one of 10 American youth invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to spend a weekend at her Hyde Park NY home to plan and prepare for the World Youth Conference to be held at Vassar College.
* Height served in her dual role as YWCA Staff member and NCNW volunteer, integrating her training as a social worker and her commitment to rise above the limitations of race and sex. She rose quickly through the ranks of the YWCA, from the Emma Ransom House in Harlem to the Executive Director of the Phyllis Wheatley Association in Washington D.C. and to the National Staff.
* For thirty-three years – (1944 – 1977), Height served on the staff of the National Board of the YWCA of the USA and held several leadership positions in Public Affairs and Leadership Training and as Director of the National YWCA School for Professional Workers. In 1965, she was inaugurated and became Director of the Center for Racial Justice, a position she held until her retirement.
* In l952, Height served as visiting professor at the University of Delhi, India, in the Delhi School of Social Work, which was founded by the YWCAs of India, Burma and Ceylon. She became known for her internationalism and humanitarianism, and conducted international studies and travel to expand the work of the YWCA.
* Height made a study of the training of women’s organizations in five African countries: Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria under the Committee of Correspondence.
* Height was elected National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1947 – and served until l956. She carried the Sorority to a new level of organizational development, initiation eligibility and social action throughout her term. Her leadership training skills, social work background and knowledge of volunteerism benefited the Sorority as it moved into a new era of activism on the national and international scene.
* In l957, Height was elected fourth National President of NCNW and served until l998 when she became Chair and President Emerita.
* In 1960, Height was the woman team member leader in the United Civil Rights Leadership along with Martin Luther King, Whitney H. Young, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins and John Lewis.
* In 1961, while Height was participating in major Civil Rights leadership, she led NCNW to deal with unmet needs among women and their families to combat hunger, develop cooperative pig banks, provided families with community freezers and showers, etc..
* In 1964, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Height with Polly Cowan, an NCNW Board Member, organized teams of women of different races and faith as “Wednesdays In Mississippi” to assist in the freedom schools and open communication between women of difference races. The workshops which followed stressed the need for decent housing which became the basis for NCNW in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop Turnkey III Home Ownership for low income families in Gulfport Mississippi.
* In l970, Height directed the series of activities culminating in the YWCA Convention adopting as its “One Imperative” to the elimination of racism.
* In 1970, Height established the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement in New York City to prepare women for entry level jobs. From this experience in 1975, Height in collaboration with Pace College established a first-time Associate Degree for Professional Studies (AAPS) – now incorporated as a regular professional studies degree course at Pace University.
* In l975, Height participated in the Tribunal at the International Women’s Year Conference of the United Nations in Mexico City. As a result of this experience, NCNW was awarded a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to hold a conference within the conference for women from the United States, African countries, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. This was followed with a site visit with 50 of the women to visit with rural women in Mississippi.
* Under the auspices of the USAID, Height lectured in South Africa after addressing the National Convention of the Black Women’s Federation of South Africa near Johannesburg (1977).
* Height led a crusade for justice for Black women and since l986 worked to strengthen the Black family. Under her leadership:
o In 1966, NCNW achieved tax-exempt status.
o In 1974, NCNW dedicated the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune in Lincoln Park, Washington D C; the first woman on public land in the Nation’s Capital and to an African American or woman of any race.
o Developed model national and community-based programs ranging from teen-age parenting to pig “banks” – which addressed hunger in rural areas – and were replicated by many other groups.
o Established the Bethune Museum and Archives for Black Women, the first institution devoted to black women’s history; and established the Bethune Council House as a national historic site.
o Height placed NCNW on a course of issue-oriented politics, sponsoring “Wednesdays in Mississippi” when interracial groups of women would help out at Freedom Schools; voter registration drives in the South; and established communications between black and white women.
o Established the Black Family Reunion Celebration in 1986 to reinforce the historic strengths and traditional values of the Black family.
Dorothy I. Height has received awards and citations including the:
* John F. Kennedy Memorial Award
* Hadassah Myrtle Wreath of Achievement
* Ministerial Interfaith Association Award
* Ladies Home Journal – Woman of the Year
* Congressional Black Caucus – Decades of Service
* President Ronald Reagan – Citizens Medal
* Franklin Roosevelt – Freedom Medal
* Essence Award
* Camille Cosby World of Children Award
* Caring Institute – Caring Award
* NAACP – Spingarn Medal
* National Women’s Hall of Fame
* President Bill Clinton – Presidential Medal of Freedom
* On Height’s 92nd birthday March 24, 2004, President George W. Bush presented her the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian and most distinguished award presented by the United States Congress.
She has received thirty-six Honorary Doctorate Degrees from universities and colleges such as:
Tuskegee University, Spelman College, Pace University, Bennett College, Lincoln University, Harvard University, Howard University, Princeton University, New York University, Morehouse College, Meharry Medical College, Columbia University
Statement from Governor David A. Paterson on the Passing of Dr. Dorothy Height
ALBANY, NY (04/20/2010)(readMedia)– “Today, I join New Yorkers and Americans in mourning the death of Dr. Dorothy Height, a civil rights pioneer who helped guide our nation through its crusade for equality. Having borne witness to discrimination, Dr. Height committed to eradicting intolerance – whether it be against a race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. She marched with those tired of violence, stood with those ready for change and served for four decades as the leader of the National Council of Negro Women. Her work, which continued well beyond her retirement, has helped make for a more just society.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my thoughts and prayers to Dr. Height’s family.”
NEW YORK, NY – New York City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following in response to questions about the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height:
“We have lost a great leader, a stalwart champion for civil rights and a distinguished American. Dr. Height led at the forefront of our nation’s long march toward justice, empowerment and freedom. She engendered uncommon courage, grace and strength in the struggle for social justice, equal economic and educational opportunities. Our thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time, whom we hope will find some solace and strength in the memories of Dr. Height and the assurance that her legacy continues.”
Reverend Al Sharpton on the passing of Civil Rights Leader Dr. Dorothy Height
National Urban League Reflects On The Legacy Of Dr. Dorothy Height”
The passing of Dr. Dorothy Height is the passing of a true American icon who shaped a century of American progress toward racial and gender equality.
No one served longer and stronger or with more persistence than Dorothy Height. Whether it was marching in the streets with Dr. King, helping further education with Mary McLeod Bethune, or mentoring a new generation of freedom fighters, Dr. Height was a hero in civil rights and social justice.
Just two months ago, Dr. Height gave me instructions on how to fight against black unemployment in our meeting with President Obama at the White House. I visited her bedside in the hospital just three weeks ago knowing that greatness comes rarely in a lifetime and she was truly a great woman. Dr. Height fought until the end and has earned her place in history. We will miss her dearly.”
NEW YORK (April 20, 2010) — Reflecting on the passing today of Dr. Dorothy Height, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said the League today has lost a friend, an inspiration, a mentor and a moral touchstone.
“We are following a path that was forged by Dr. Height,” Morial said. “Her legacy is a debt we can never repay. We merely hope to honor her memory and try as we can to live up to her example.”
Dr. Height’s association with the National Urban League was long and distinguished. She collaborated with every president from Lester Granger to Morial, playing a major role in every initiative.
“She stood side-by-side with League President Whitney M. Young as they worked with Dr. Martin Luther to map a strategy for the landmark civil rights challenges of the 1960s,” Morial said.
She received the League’s “Equal Opportunity Day Award” in 1982 and its “Legend Award” in 2003. Her last public appearance was the Greater Washington Urban League’s gala on March 17.
In the foreward to the National Urban League’s The State of Black America 2008: In the Black Woman’s Voice, Dr. Height reflected on recent years that had seen the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and a highly-publicized racist slur against female college athletes. The voices of black women, she wrote, must be heeded in these times more than ever.
“Who better than us can understand the very real boundaries that all women face in navigating a cultural dynamic that still assigns roles and oftentimes limitations based upon gender?” she wrote. “Yet, it is also true, that there are special, dual challenges intricately linked to blackness and womanhood that we black women face and navigate alone. “With no apologies, the time is now, to finally focus on us,” she wrote.
“Dr. Height’s strength and courage continue to inspire the Urban League movement,” Morial said.
NAACP SADDENED BY LOSS OF CIVIL RIGHTS GIANT DR. DOROTHY HEIGHT
NAACP CHAIRMAN ROSLYN M. BROCK, NAACP PRESIDENT BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS AND NAACP CHAIRMAN EMERITUS JULIAN BOND AND MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS REFLECT ON THE LIFE OF THE “GODMOTHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”
WASHINGTON DC – The NAACP family is saddened by the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height, civil rights pioneer, social justice advocate and long time friend of the NAACP.
“Dr. Dorothy I. Height was the beloved matriarch of the civil rights movement,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “The nation has lost a stalwart champion for civil rights and gender equality. With perseverance and strong determination Dr. Height broke through the proverbial glass ceiling as the only woman working side by side with the “Big Six” to secure civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 60s. Today we have lost a strong voice and champion for women and children. Her lasting contributions will live on through the lives of those she touched and mentored,” added Brock.
“I was introduced to the legacy of Dr. Dorothy Height through my 93 year-old grandmother, who considered Dr. Height one of her heroes. Our first meeting was at the 1993 March on Washington, where I was an organizer for the event. Dr. Height was a tireless and committed fighter for civil rights. Despite being in poor health, she joined the NAACP late last year in our health care war room to advocate for health care reform. The defining legacy of Dr. Height will be the countless individuals she inspired and mentored into positions of great leadership,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “She will be most remembered for what she did to encourage women to reach greater levels of achievement, but the truth is that she also guided and mentored the ambition to service and contributions of thousands of men. Her passion for a just society and her vision for a better world inspires us all.”
“Dr. Height never saw a mountain she could not climb, from being denied entry to Barnard College to achieving a master’s degree in psychology at NYU and lobbying President Kennedy to sign the Equal Pay Act in 1963. She was the matriarch of the civil rights movement, and will be greatly missed,” added NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond.
NAACP Chairman Emeritus Myrlie Evers-Williams reflected: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dr. Dorothy Height. I recall her formidable presence when she spoke during the funeral of my husband Medgar. She spoke earnestly about the civil rights struggle and how the conditions affected young people, especially about their treatment at the hands of law enforcement. Although childless, she was Mother to all of us-she was family. Hers was a steady, loving influence on all of us involved in the struggle for justice and equality. She was a woman of great drive who never lost sight of the goal of equal rights and human rights for all Americans, particularly women. Her program, “Wednesday’s in Mississippi” brought together hundreds of young women to register to vote and make sure their voices were heard in elections and in our democracy. America has lost an icon today-an illustrious beacon shining on the human spirit. We shared a remarkable time together in the civil rights movement, and now I share with the rest of the world in mourning the loss of such a wonderfully caring and spiritual woman.”
Rep. Towns Statement on the Passing of Civil Rights Leader Dr. Dorothy I. Height
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10) released the following statement today in memory of the passing of Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, former president of the National Council of Negro Women and legendary female leader of the civil rights movement:
“Today, we mourn the passing of a legendary hero of the civil rights movement, Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
“Dr. Height devoted her life to breaking down barriers and fighting for a brighter future for an entire nation. She fought tirelessly for equality for African Americans, women and the disabled, and fought for school desegregation, voting rights and gender equality. From marching in the New York City streets as a teenager to marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to becoming the sole woman who served at the highest level of leadership in the civil rights movement, Dr. Height was a powerful activist whose crusade of more than six decades laid a strong foundation that forever changed the United States.
“For more than four decades, Dr. Height served as president of the National Council of Negro Women where she advised American leaders on civil rights. Dr. Height was also an esteemed member and former national president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In all of her leadership positions, Dr. Height advocated for access to education, particularly for African American women.
“In honor of Dr. Height’s work as a New York City welfare caseworker, I introduced and dedicated social work legislation in her name. H.R. 795, the ‘Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act’ addresses the challenges to the social work profession and supports social work as a means to enhance societal well-being. As a professional social worker, I have always found inspiration in Dr. Height’s lifelong dedication to our shared occupation. Throughout her life, Dr. Height carried out the mission and services of a social work – pushing for social change and improving the quality of life for all Americans.
“I am deeply saddened about the passing of a true hero and my friend, Dr. Dorothy I. Height. I extend my condolences to Dr. Height’s family and friends.”
Statement by Wade Henderson on the Death of Civil Rights Legend, Dr. Dorothy I. Height
“It is with a heavy heart that I mourn the passing of our chairperson, Dr. Dorothy I. Height. For the past seven decades, her work and her wisdom have enriched and ennobled the civil rights movement and our nation.
Dr. Height has been an extraordinary leader, a gifted organizer, a trusted adviser, and a shrewd strategist from the days of the New Deal to these times of the Raw Deal for so many Americans. She was at every important meeting, participated in every historic struggle, and advised major national leaders from Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.
Indeed, her biography is intertwined with the most significant moments of the modern civil rights movement. If Rosa Parks is the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, then Dr. Height is its Queen.
On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Height for more than 20 years. Her wise counsel, political acumen, and pragmatic idealism were, quite simply, invaluable. She was active in the work of The Leadership Conference right up until it was just physically impossible for her to do so, most recently, serving as honorary co-chair of our campaign to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
If, as the saying goes, service is the rent we pay for living, then Dr. Height is paid in full, many times over – and she has paid the tab for many of us as well. It is an honor and a blessing to have known her.”
BP MARKOWITZ STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER DOROTHY HEIGHT
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of another of our trailblazing civil rights champions, Dorothy Height, a great gift to all of us and now of blessed memory. I was honored to have personally known this tireless advocate for equality, who may have been born in Virginia and raised in Pennsylvania, but was an honorary Brooklynite for all her good work here. While a student at New York University, Dorothy Height was sent on a field assignment to the old Brownsville Community Center in Brooklyn, established by the Brooklyn Church and Mission Federation. It was there during the Great Depression that she cared for thousands of Brooklynites in need, empowering her with the compassion and skills that served her so well as the future president of the National Council of Negro Women and helped earn her a place in history as one of our nation’s great civil rights leaders. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dorothy Height’s family, friends and colleagues.”
STATEMENT OF ANNA BURGER ON THE PASSING OF DOROTHY HEIGHT
Washington, DC-Today, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) released the statement of Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger on the passing of civil rights activist Dorothy Height:
“For those of us who consider ourselves partners in the struggle for equal and civil rights, the passing of Dorothy Height is both cause for mourning and an important reminder of the lengths we still have to go. When Dorothy began marching in protests in the 1930s, women had barely been granted the right to vote, and the civil rights movement wasn’t yet a glimmer in our nation’s eyes. Today, because of Dr. Height’s tireless efforts, women have unprecedented opportunities to build better communities and lead in their workplaces.
“Yet Dorothy’s passing on Equal Pay Day-the day each year when women’s salaries for equal work finally catch up to men’s salaries from the year before-seems painfully fitting, as though, even in death, she continues to remind us that our work is not yet done. Dorothy stood by President Kennedy’s side at the original signing of the Act in 1963, and was a fierce advocate for working women. This year, for the first time, women constitute the greatest portion of the labor force working inside and outside the home, yet the 23 cent price differential between male and female salaries has remained unchanged for more than a decade. To put it in perspective, the average woman will earn from $700,000 to $2 million less than the average man during her working lifetime. The numbers are even more stark for women of color, including immigrant women. As Dorothy would agree, that’s unacceptable.
“So this Equal Pay Day, SEIU mourns and salutes Dorothy Height, a pioneer, a rabble-rouser, an inspiration, and- like so many members of SEIU– a social worker, who proved when individual working people stand up, they truly can change the world.”
NASW Mourns the Loss of Social Work Pioneer and Civil Rights Icon Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
Pending National Social Work Reinvestment Bill is Named in Her Honor
WASHINGTON-Today, the nation lost one of the foremost leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and the social work profession. Dr. Dorothy I. Height was a renowned civil rights leader and a vital force in the struggle for human rights and equality in the United States for more than half a century. She most recently presided as chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held for more than 40 years.
A proud social worker, Dr. Height earned her graduate degree at the New York University School of Social Work and began her career as a caseworker in the New York Welfare Department. Dr. Height went on to hold several leadership positions with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), where she led a national campaign to integrate all YWCA facilities.
Her tireless efforts on behalf of others exemplified the social work commitment to social justice and advocacy. In 2009, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act was introduced into the 111th Congress by U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) and U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns (NY). The bill would create a national commission to study the impact of social work interventions and fund social work training and research grants.
When the Social Work Reinvestment bill was introduced in Congress, Dr. Height said, “We take social work and social workers for granted. Social workers know firsthand what the issues are. We are prepared, but we also need support to keep contributing. What we need are more people with skill and commitment to help us deal with the nation’s problems and to help us move forward. The proposed Social Work Commission provides a way for us to do just that-move forward.”
“Words cannot express our sorrow in learning about Dr. Height’s death this morning, says Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers. “She, like pioneer social workers Jane Addams and Frances Perkins, made lasting change in the lives of thousands, while shaping some of the most important social shifts in American history.”
Dr. Height was mentored by some of the most accomplished women of the Progressive Era, including Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt. And she mentored many of the nation’s most recognizable female leaders today, including Former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and poet laureate and author Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Height also remains the longest serving president (1947-1957) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, an international public service organization.
The vast scope of Dr. Height’s many accomplishments has earned her repeated national recognition. In 1989, President Ronald Reagan presented her with the Citizens’ Medal Award and in 1997 President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded her with the Congressional Gold Medal and she was inducted into the Democracy Hall of Fame. Most recently, Dr. Height served as an advisor to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Dr. Height’s legacy will be celebrated by the social work profession later this week at the 2010 Social Work Congress (April 22-23). She is the recipient of NASW’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award.
STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF DOROTHY HEIGHT FROM BILL LYNCH, FORMER NYC DEPUTY MAYOR AND FOUNDER OF BILL LYNCH ASSOCIATES
“Dorothy Height was the ultimate trailblazer, not just for women and people of color but for all Americans. Her work with the YWCA starting in 1944 and as president of the National Council of Negro Women was an essential part of the Civil Rights movement and has benefited many generations.
“Dorothy Height brought out the best in everyone. As she often said, ‘Our work is not just about ourselves and our children, but about everyone and their children.’
“I am deeply saddened to learn of her passing, but I will always be inspired by her groundbreaking work and her personal kindness.”