Dorothy Height Dies at Age 98
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Dorothy Irene Height

Dorothy Irene Height, the chair and president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), passed away Tuesday at Howard University Hospital. No cause of death was given. She was 98 years old. (Click here to see “Dorothy I. Height: Her Life In Pictures.”)

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dorothy Height – the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to so many Americans,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “Even in the final weeks of her life — a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest — Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background, and faith.”

Under her calling card of colorful hats that coordinated with each of her stylish ensembles was one of America’s most treasured and triumphant civil rights leaders. “I think of life as a unity of circles. Some are concentric, others overlap, but they all connect in some way,” wrote Height in her autobiography Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir (Gale Group).

Height’s social and political circles were numerous and wide reaching as she, an influential player for social justice, civil rights, and women’s rights, connected with and uplifted several generations. Her prominence was such that the nation’s presidents and civil rights luminaries sought her council. In fact, she was the only female leader present at the table when Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney H. Young, A. Philip Randolph, and John Lewis began coordinating the March on Washington in 1960, according to her memoir.

“How can one pay adequate homage to Dorothy Height?” said Earl G. Graves Sr., founder and publisher of Black Enterprise. “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.”

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, she led the NCNW to start “Wednesday’s in Mississippi,” the only civil rights project run by a national women’s organization. While the goal was to bridge the divide between women of different race, class, and regional backgrounds, the workshops led the NCNW to successfully partner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create Turnkey III Home Ownership for low-income families in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Height’s passion for social justice extended well beyond the United States. She traveled to England and Holland in her 20s as a representative for several Christian youth organizations. Later, under the Young Women’s Christian Association she studied the training of women’s organizations in five African countries and served as a visiting professor at the Delhi School of Social Work at University of Delhi in India.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.