Legendary civil rights leader Dorothy Height, a longtime activist and President of the National Council of Negro Women, has died. Height passed away early Tuesday morning in a Washington hospital after first being admitted nearly three weeks ago.
“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dorothy Height – the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to so many Americans,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “Ever since she was denied entrance to college because the incoming class had already met its quota of two African American women, Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality.”
Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for more than 40 years, advising presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton on both civil and gender rights. She helped advance landmark legislation on school desegregation, voting rights and equality in the workplace.
In 1937, while she was working at the Harlem YWCA, Height met famed educator Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who had come to speak at a meeting of Bethune’s organization. Height would go on to hold major positions in both the organizations.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1912, Height first joined the civil rights movement as a teenager, marching in New York’s Times Square against lynching. In 1963, she was the only woman on the speaker’s platform when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
In 1994, Bill Clinton awarded Height with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Ten years later, she was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Estelle Mannion, president of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women said: “It’s a sad day for the organization and all of its members. Dr. Height will be missed for what she stood for, her leadership, stamina, and strength. She leaves a legacy that will live on.”
Among those giving condolences in memory of Height are the National Urban League, Senator John Kerry, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO.
At press time, no arrangements had been announced.