Dorothy Height (1912-2010) was a civil rights and women’s rights activist who served as president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years. She was a key figure in the struggles for voting rights, desegregation and employment opportunities in the 1950s and 60s and, at the same time, was fighting gender bias, much of that work predating the women’s rights movement of the early 1970s. She was considered one of the most influential African-American women of the time, though she did much of her work outside the spotlight. Height was on the platform with Martin Luther King Jr. as he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and with Barack Obama when he was sworn in as the first African-American president in 2009. In 1989, President Reagan awarded her the Presidential Citizenship Medal. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 from President Clinton and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2004, accepting it “on behalf of millions of people – particularly women – whose work goes unnoticed.” After her death, the U.S. Post office near Union Station in Washington, D.C., was named in her honor, the first federal building in the district named for an African-American woman.
Want to know more?
Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir
The Dorothy I. Height Leadership Institute
Watch President Obama's eulogy
You can listen to her speak in this profile created by United Methodist Communications