• Rachel R

Dr. Dorothy Height: Civil Rights and Women's Rights Activist

Dorothy Irene Height was born on March 24th, 1912 in Richmond, Virginia. Her family ended up moving to Rankin, Pennsylvania where she thrived as a student. In 1929, Dorothy was admitted to Barnard College but did not get to attend as they did not admit African Americans. She didn’t let that slow her down at all and ended up graduating from New York University with a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in psychology.

After college she worked as a social worker in Harlem, NY and eventually joined the staff at the Harlem Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). She quickly became a leader within the YWCA and created diverse programs while working to integrate YWCA facilities across the nation.

After a seemingly random meeting with African American leader Mary McLeod Bethune, Dorothy was motivated to start working with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). Within the NCNW Dorothy focused on restructuring the criminal justice system. In 1957, Dorothy became the fourth president of the NCNW. While she was president the NCNW pushed for voter registration in the South, voter education in the North, and started scholarship programs to help provide education for student civil rights workers and activists. In the 1970’s as women began to have more freedom Dorothy also helped secure grants to help women get vocational training, or to help women open businesses. She ended up being president of the NCNW for 40 years.


Dorothy’s work within the Civil Rights Movement made her someone people liked to call on for political advice. Some of those who sought her advice were Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lynden B. Johnson to name a few. Dorothy was one of the organizers involved in organizing the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Dorothy and Anna Arnold Hedgeman had to persuade the largely male organizers to allow a woman to speak at the march, hoping for an end to the gender discrimination within the movement.

Outside of her extensive work in the United States she traveled around the world teaching in places like India and South Africa.

For all her work in the Civil Rights Movement Dorothy received the Citizens Medal Award from Reagan in 1989, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004, and was inducted into the Democracy Hall of Fame International.



She passed away at 98 years old on April 10th, 2010. Her funeral was held at the Washington National Cathedral.




**Information Sourced from https://www.nps.gov/people/dorothy-i-height.htm#:~:text=Height%20began%20her%20efforts%20as,to%20the%20criminal%20justice%20system. and https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dorothy-Height **

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