From The Washington Post

Dorothy I. Height, founding matriarch of civil rights movement, dies at 98
By Bart Barnes Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, April 20, 2010; 7:34

Dorothy I. Height, 98, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement whose crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades, died early Tuesday morning of natural causes, a spokesperson for the National Council of Negro Women said.

Ms. Height was among the coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s.

Ms. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, relinquishing the title in 1997. The 4 million-member advocacy group consists of 34 national and 250 community-based organizations. It was founded in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune, who was one of Ms. Height’s mentors.

As a civil rights activist, Ms. Height participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930s. In the 1940s, she lobbied first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes. And in the 1950s, she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues. In 1994, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them,” said former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman, a close friend who has been running day-to-day operations at the National Council.

Herman called Ms. Heights “a national treasure who lived life abundantly. She will be greatly missed, not only by those of us who knew her well, but by the countless beneficiaries of her enduring legacy.”

In the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960s, Ms. Heights helped orchestrate strategy with movement leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and John Lewis, who later served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia.

Ms. Height was arguably the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time.

In August 1963, Ms. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. But she would say later that she was disappointed that no one advocating women’s rights spoke that day at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Less than a month later, at King’s request, she went to Birmingham, Ala., to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.

“At every major effort for social progressive change, Dorothy Height has been there,” Lewis said in 1997 when Ms. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women.

Rest of obituary at link above.



Open Wide The Freedom Gates: A Memoir by Dorothy Height

What Dr. Height had to say about First Lady Michelle Obama:

Old School Respect to the New School:

“In today’s world, a woman of this caliber who is the mate of one who is a nominee for president of the United States deserves all of the recognition, admiration and respect that she has so well earned,”said Dr. Dorothy I. Height, chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women.

“When I follow many of the stories and comments, I realize that we have come a long way, but there is a long way to go,” added Dr. Height who has known every first lady of the United States since Eleanor Roosevelt. Dr. Height referred to the wife of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as “a woman of considerable accomplishments.”-found at Soujouner’s Place

FILE — In a Nov. 19, 1964 file photo, from left, James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality; Whitney M. Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League; Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Women, talk to reporters in Washington D.C. after meeting with President Lyndon Johnson. Height, a leading female voice of the 1960s civil rights movement, died Tuesday, April 20, 2010. She was 98.
—-AP Photo/file

File — In an Oct. 31, 2005 photo Dr. Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, delivers her remarks, during a memorial services for Rosa Parks, in the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington.
—–AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta/file

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