Dorothy Irene Height would have been 102 year old today. In honor of the civil rights leader Google designed their logo to celebrate her life. Height was also a woman’s rights activist and is credited with successfully bridging the gap between the Civil Rights and Feminist movements.
Dorothy Height became a prominent civil rights leader in 1937. While working at the Harlem YMCA she met National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) president Mary McLeod Bethune and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during their visit to the facility.
Height started volunteering for the NCNW as a result of the meeting with Bethune and Roosevelt. Eventually Dorothy was named the NCNW president and held the position from 1957 to 1998. She also started the YMCA’s Center for Racial Justice in 1965, which she led until 1975.
Dorothy Irene Height worked alongside the most prominent civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, John Lewis, and James Farmer. She helped organize the 1963 March on Washington which included Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s ‘I Have A Dream Speech.’
According to The Christian Science Monitor, “Dorothy Irene Height helped convince President Dwight Eisenhower to desegregate schools, encouraged President Lyndon Johnson to appoint black women to government positions, counseled First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, stood next to Dr. King when he delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and sat on the stage for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.”
Height teamed up in 1971 with Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. Dorothy was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. During her lifetime, Height received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
According to Time, “Height made major contributions to both the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s, but was often marginalized in each movement because of her race and gender.”
In a 2008 interview with NPR, Height commented on the “unfinished business” of the civil rights movement:
“We don’t need the marches we had in the past, but we need more consideration in looking at the boardroom tables and at the policies that are going on – looking at what’s happening in industry, what’s happening in terms of employment opportunities, housing and the like.”
Flags were ordered to be flown at half-mast by President Barack Obama when Dorothy Irene Height died in April of 2010 at the age of 98. During President Obama’s delivery of Height’s eulogy he referred to her as the ‘godmother of the civil rights movement.’ Height, in the words of Obama, “devoted her life to those struggling for equality… witnessing every march and milestone along the way.”
The following video is President Barack Obama giving a eulogy at Dorothy Irene Height’s funeral in 2010: