Dr. Dorothy I. Height is one of those rare women in history that straddled the civil and women’s rights movements, leaving an indelible mark on both. Born March 24, 1912, the 98-year-old native Virginian began her fight for the rights of African Americans and women at an early age. In high school, she received a scholarship to Barnard College for her oratory skills, but when she arrived at the college, she was turned away. Seventy-five years ago, Barnard College had an unwritten “two African Americans per academic year” quota, which was filled by the time she arrived. Despite her overwhelming disappointment, she persevered, going on to study at New York University, earning her Master’s Degree in psychology.
In addition to excelling academically at NYU, she went on to champion the rights of African American women by becoming the National President of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Incorporated from 1946-1957. In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. To build camaraderie among African American and White women during the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” (WIMS) bringing together women from the North and South “to create a dialogue of understanding.” A documentary was made about this landmark effort, the only civil rights project run by a national women’s organization. , During her tenure as president of the National Council of Negro Women, Dr. Height said:
“We must never lose sight of the quiet revolution that women are involved in. That, in the long run, will make the difference.”
Early yesterday, we learned Dr. Height was admitted to Howard University Hospital and is in intensive care. Last Wednesday was her 98th birthday. Our thoughts and prayers are with this champion of human rights. We’re all better off for her bravery, strength and character.