Ladies of Legacy: Dorothy Height

"Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement" fought for equality for African Americans and women

(Image: File)
(Image: File)
In a special series, highlights female leaders in industries from media, to business, to education to healthcare. These women have also held the honor of being Black Enterprise Women of Power Legacy Award winners.

Civil rights activist and Black Enterprise Legacy Award recipient Dorothy Height would be proud of what’s happening across the world today. As people of all ages and colors rise up to speak out on their unhappiness with the justice system’s treatment of African Americans, their shouts and calls for equality echo the protest chants of Dorothy Height in her heyday.
[RELATED VIDEO BELOW: Dorothy Height’s Legacy]

Known as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Height was dedicated to fighting for the equal rights of African Americans and women. At 25, she joined the National Council of Negro Women [NCNW]. By 1957, she was named president of the NCNW holding the position for 40 years. In the ’60s, during the turbulent height of the civil rights movement, she bravely created a much needed conversation on race relations by bringing together white and black women to talk during her event named, “Wednesdays in Mississippi.” Recognizing Height’s strength and unstoppable will to make change, when penning his autobiography, Civil Rights Leader James Farmer referred to her as one of the “Big 6” of the civil rights movement.

Few of the younger generation may know her name today, but in Height’s heyday Presidents knew her well. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, brought her in as counsel. She served on numerous government committees as a consultant on African affairs to the Secretary of State, the President’s Committees on Employment of the Handicapped, and the Status of Women. She sat on the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which spoke out on the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study. And she was a chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. In the midst of it all, Height wrote a weekly column for the New York Amsterdam News, “A Woman’s Word,”  which appeared weekly chronicling her outlook on the fight for the equal rights of blacks and women.

Black Enterprise honored Height with a Legacy Awards in 2008. The following year, she sat on stage at the inauguration of President Obama. But on April 10, 2010 at Howard University Hospital, she transitioned. Her funeral was attended by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.


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