Happy 102nd Birthday Dorothy Irene Height. National Council of Negro Women President, Presidential Medal Of Freedom And Congressional Gold Medal Winner.


By Jueseppi B.

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I first learned about Ms. Dorothy Irene Height in the late 70’s before going off to work for Uncle Sam. A woman who taught me many things, also taught me about her heroine, Dorothy Irene Height.


Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010) was an American administrator,educator, and a civil rights and women’s rights activist specifically focused on the issues of African-American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.


Dorothy I. Height
Born Dorothy Irene Height
March 24, 1912
Richmond, VirginiaU.S.
Died April 20, 2010 (aged 98)
Washington, D.C.U.S.
Occupation Educator and social activist


Early life

Dorothy Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. During childhood, she moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania, a steel town in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where she graduated from Rankin High School in 1929. Height received a scholarship from the Elks which helped her to attend college. Height was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students per year. She pursued studies instead at New York University, earning a degree in 1932, and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year. Height pursued further postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work (the predecessor of the Columbia University School of Social Work).



Dorothy Height with Eleanor Roosevelt, giving ms. Roosevelt The Mary McLeod Bethune Human Rights Award in 1960

Dorothy Height with Eleanor Roosevelt, giving Ms. Roosevelt The Mary McLeod Bethune Human Rights Award in 1960



Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YMCA. She also served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority from 1946 to 1957. She remained active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority throughout her life. While there she developed leadership training programs and interracial and ecumenical education programs.


Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi“, which brought together black and white women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding.


American leaders regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Height also encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African-American women to positions in government. In the mid-1960s, Height wrote a column entitled “A Woman’s Word” for the weekly African-American newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News and her first column appeared in the March 20, 1965, issue on page 8.


Height served on a number of committees, including as a consultant on African affairs to the Secretary of State, the President’s Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, and the President’s Committee on the Status of Women. In 1974, Height was named to the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which published The Belmont Report, a response to the infamous “Tuskegee Syphilis Study” and an international ethical touchstone for researchers to this day.


The Dorothy I. Height Building, headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The Dorothy I. Height Building, headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.



Later life

In 1990, Height, along with 15 other African-American women and men, formed the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom. Height was recognized by Barnard for her achievements as an honorary alumna during its commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 2004.


The musical stage play If This Hat Could Talk, based on her memoirs Open Wide The Freedom Gates, debuted in the middle of 2005. It showcases her unique perspective on the civil rights movement and details many of the behind-the-scenes figures and mentors who shaped her life, including Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt.


Height was the chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the largest civil rights organization in the USA. She was an honored guest at the inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 and was seated on the stage.


She attended the National Black Family Reunion, celebrated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., every year until her death in 2010.


On March 25, 2010, Height was admitted to Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. for unspecified reasons. Her spokeswoman issued a statement stating that at that time she was in a “very serious, but stable” condition but that they were remaining optimistic about her recovery. On April 20, 2010, Height died at the age of ninety-eight. Her funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on April 29, 2010 was attended by President and Mrs. Obama plus many dignitaries and notable people. She was later interred at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Maryland.


Personal life

According to a DNA analysis performed by African Ancestry Inc., she descended mainly from people of Sierra Leone.



Awards and honors



Happy 102nd Birthday Ms. Dorothy Irene Height


Dorthy Height dorthyheight


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11 replies »

  1. Good day, brother!! I saw the google doodle last night. Intend to write a post on her with it today. Hope you don’t mind ….
    I will reference your article …. Have a good one …. I’m just waking up!!


    • Sweetheart, you don’t have to reference me, go do your thing. She deserves a ton of blog post. I hope everybody blogs about her.😉


  2. Ms. Height was a remarkable woman; she left quite a legacy behind. She was the epitome of grace and truthfulness, and possessed a particular brand of in-your-face honesty and conviction about her beliefs, history, and civil rights. Thanks for the reminder! Happy Birthday, Ms. Height! Your model is one to live by.


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