Dr. Dorothy Height was considered the “grande dame” of the civil rights era. She was an American administrator, educator, and social activist. She also served as president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years.
Height was born in Richmond Virginia on March 24, 1912, but moved with her family to Rankin Pennsylvania as a young child. After being admitted into Barnard College in 1929, Height was denied entrance because of the school’s policy of admitting only two black students per year. Height went on to pursue her education at New York University where she earned her degree in 1932. The following year Height earned her master’s degree in educational psychology.
At the age of 25, Height began a career as a Civil Rights activist after joining the National Council of Negro Women. Height fought for both the rights of African Americans and women. She served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority from 1946 to 1957. This allowed her to develop leadership training programs as well as interracial educational programs. In 1957 Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women. Height remained president until the 1997. Height brought together black and white women from the North and South during the Civil Rights Movement with her “Wednesdays in Mississippi.” This was an activist group in the 1960s that sought to end violence and open the lines of communication between women of different races. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took her counsel regularly. Together Height and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged President Eisenhower to desegregate schools. They also encouraged President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government.
Height later went on to serve 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. Height became the chairperson of the Executive Committee of the largest civil rights organization in the United States, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. On January 20, 2009 Height was an honored guest at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Height attended the National Black Family Reunion in Washington D.C. every year until her passing in 2010.