In the fourth grade, I elected to do my Black History Month report on someone lesser known than Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X because each year several students chose one of the two. With some parental help, I researched and came across a remarkable woman named Dorothy Irene Height who too had a major hand in the civil rights movement. Dorothy was born in Richmond, Virginia, in March 1912. Determined to obtain higher education, Height was admitted to Barnard College in 1929 but was not allowed entrance because the school only admitted two Black students per year and she was third to arrive that day.
Dr. Dorothy I. Height went on to obtain her bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1932 and become a social worker in the city of New York. Dorothy’s insight on disparity in her personal and professional experiences led her to become a civil rights activist. During the 1960s, she was the female team leader in the United Civil Rights Leadership along side Martin Luther King, Jr. and other influential males.
In 1977, Height accepted the position of President of the National Council of Negro Women where she remained for twenty years before succeeding to President Emerita, a position she held until her passing in April 2010. Height’s astonishing work with the NCNW, YMCA, and two United States Presidents to fight discrimination led to countless awards such as the Franklin Roosevelt Freedom Medal, NAACP Spingarn Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as thirty-six honorary doctorate degrees.
It is Dorothy Irene Height’s fortitude that propelled her to become a greatly influential Black woman in the battle for equal rights, and her accomplishments were certainly not unnoticed. Nearly one year after Height’s passing, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declared March 24th Dorothy Irene Height Day in the state of Virginia calling observance of her excellence.
- Post by Janessa Robinson, Tulane University Student