1912 March 24

Dorothy Height, Matriarch of the Civil Rights Movement, is Born


Dorothy Height, an African-American who played an important but largely silent role on behalf of racial justice, is best known as the head of the National Conference of Negro Women, where she served from 1957 to 1998, overseeing a range of programs on issues like voting rights, poverty and in later years AIDS.

Early in her career, she overcame a major racial injustice: She was admitted to Barnard College in 1929; but when the college dean discovered she was African-American, she was immediately “dis-enrolled” because Barnard had already met its quota of two Negro students that year. New York University immediately enrolled her, and Height graduated in 1933. Height was among the coalition of African-American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s.

In photographs of the famous 1963 March on Washington, Height can be seen sitting just a few chairs away from Rev. Martin Luther King. Although one of the march’s  organizers, she was not asked to speak at the event.

Dorothy Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. In 2004, 75 years after turning her away, Barnard College presented Ms. Height with an honorary degree.

Visit the NCNW website: http://www.ncnw.org/

Read her memoir: Dorothy Height, Open Wide The Freedom Gates: A Memoir (2003)

Watch an interview with Dorothy Height: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5JAVF2mw5c

Learn more about Dorothy Height: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/dorothy-height/

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)

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