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Black Activists - Dorothy Height

Updated on February 28, 2012

Dorothy Height was born March 24, 1912 in Richmond, Virginia and died April 20, 2010 in Washington DC. Height was raised in Pennsylvania and went to New York University where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Height was a civil rights and women’s rights activist. Height was an educator and an activist, for over forty years she was the president of the National Council of Negro Women. Height lived until she was 98 years old and never stopped being an advocate for those who were underrepresented. Height worked tirelessly for the rights of women and African Americans.

Early Life

Dorothy Height was born in Richmond, Virginia but her family moved to Pennsylvania when Dorothy was very young. Height attended integrated schools and her best friend in grade school was a white girl. Height was devastated when her best friend said that they could not play together because Height was black and she was white. In high school Height won a scholarship to the college of her choice but Barnard College turned her away because they had met their quota for blacks that were enrolled. After being turned away at Barnard College Height attended and graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in educational psychology. As an activist Height got started while working for the New York City Welfare Department as a caseworker.


Just out of college Dorothy Height worked for the New York City Welfare Department as a caseworker helping with the Harlem riots. Height was also an assistant director of the Harlem YWCA. After meeting Mary Bethune, the founder of the National Council of Negro Women, Bethune convinced Height to help lead the organization. Height is most widely known for the Wednesdays inMississippi programs where white women and black women from the North and the South would come together on Wednesdays inMississippi to talk so that there could become an understanding between them. Throughout this time Height served on a number of committees and was a member of several organizations but Height continued to focus on the rights of women and African Americans.

Later Life

Dorothy Height continued to work for social issues throughout her later life; still focusing on African Americans and women. Height wrote her memoirs, Open Wide the Freedom Gates. Height received many awards and accolades for her contributions to civil rights and women’s rights. Height received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Height was even recognized by the college that turned her away years before; Barnard College made her an honorary alumni. Height continued her work until she died at the age of 98. Height’s funeral was attended by many dignitaries and notable people including the President and the First Lady.

Dorothy Height was an amazing woman who did so much for civil rights and women's rights. Height did more than just work for one cause or organization; Height continually worked to help anyone who was in need no matter what the struggle may have been. Height lived a very long life and spent most of it working for the welfare of others.


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    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      6 years ago from West Coast

      JenMc - Thank you! I had not heard of her either. She was a very amazing person.

    • JenMc profile image

      Jenny McClease 

      6 years ago from Norfolk, Virginia

      I never heard of Dorothy Height. Thanks for introducing her.


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