How can one pay adequate homage to Dorothy Height? One can’t really, but we are obliged to try because tribute must be paid to a woman such as this. Today, President Obama called her the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” and that was by no means an understatement. She was a dream giver, an earth shaker, and a crusader for human rights who served as a catalyst for change at a time when few could take a stand.
From 1957 to 1998, Dorothy served as president of the National Council of Negro Women, where she led a personal crusade for justice for African American women and the preservation of the black family. Under her stewardship the organization played a leadership role in the desegregation battles in the south, voter education and registration drives in the North and South, youth development and education, and ongoing efforts to end global poverty and illiteracy. She has been instrumental in the initiation of NCNW sponsored food drives, child care, housing projects, and career and educational programs that embody the principles of self-reliance. And as a promoter of positive black family life, Dorothy conceived and organized the Black Family Reunion Celebration in 1986 to reinforce the historic strengths and traditional values of the African American family.
In 2008 I and my wife Barbara had the honor of presenting Dorothy with the Black Enterprise Women of Power Legacy Award while in the company of 700 women whose professional lives she helped to make possible. It was breathtaking to see her as vibrant as ever, still teaching, motivating, and inspiring a whole new generation with her courage. Although we deeply mourn her passing, we celebrate her extraordinary life knowing our children and grandchildren stand on her shoulders.
Earl Graves Sr. is the founder, chairman and publisher of Black Enterprise.
Click here to view Women of Power Legacy Award Dorothy Height Tribute video.