Honoring the Life of Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Today, the Senate Democratic Majority passed a resolution, sponsored by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Mt. Vernon), honoring the life of Dr. Dorothy I. Height, a leader of the African American and women’s civil rights movements. On Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Dorothy I. Height a champion of women and minorities, and President of the National Council of Negro Women, died at the age of 98. Dr. Height had a career in civil rights that spanned nearly 80 years, from anti-lynching protests in the early 1930’s to being an honored witness at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.A star scholar, Dorothy I. Height was accepted at Barnard College in 1929, only to be told by the dean that she could not enroll that year because the quota for Negro students had already been met. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in psychology from New York University. Seventy five years after being turned away from Barnard, the college awarded Dr. Height its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction.After serving as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department, she became assistant director of the Harlem YMCA in the late 1930’s catching the attention of the international news media by speaking out against the “slave markets” exploiting black women working as domestic day workers. At the age of 25, Dr. Height became a member of the National Council of Negro Women and served as its president from 1957 to 1997, overseeing programs ranging from voting rights, to poverty and AIDS.In 1946, Dorothy I. Height oversaw the desegregation of the YMCA nationwide, founding the Y’s Center for Racial Justice which she led from 1965 to 1977.Dr. Height regularly worked on projects of national significance alongside the “Big Six’ male civil rights leaders. In 1963, she sat next to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. In 1971, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus and in 1994 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. In 2004, she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush.“For generations, Dorothy I. Height was the essence of the civil rights movement, said Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson. “With energy, compassion and integrity, she changed the course of history for the better. Dorothy I. Height showed courage when times were tough, had vision when things were bleak, and created hope for those whose dreams had yet to be fulfilled. Her legacy is ours to continue, her torch ours to carry, and her memory ours to honor.”“Armed with a humanistic spirit, imbued with a sense of compassion, and comforted by a loving family, Dorothy I. Height leaves behind a legacy which will long endure the passage of time,” Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Mt. Vernon) said. “This very spirit will remain as a comforting memory to all she served and befriended. Dr. Height broke barriers and opened the door for women, like myself, to confidently pursue-and attain-their dreams. Her efforts will never be forgotten.”

Also on FingerLakes1.com