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*On this date, in 1912, Dorothy Height was born. She was a Black administrator, teacher, and social activist.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, she moved with her parents to Rankin, Pennsylvania, at an early age and attended public schools. Winner of a scholarship for her exceptional oratorical skills, she entered New York University, where she earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in four years. While working as a caseworker for the welfare department in New York, Dr. Height joined the NCNW in 1937, and her career as a pioneer in American Civil Rights activities began to unfold.
She served on the national staff of the YWCA of the USA from 1944 to 1977, where she was active in developing its leadership training and interracial and ecumenical education programs. In 1965, she inaugurated the Center for Racial Justice, which is still a major initiative of the National YWCA. She served as the 10th national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., from 1946 to 1957, before becoming president of the NCNW in 1958.
Working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, and others, Dr. Height participated in virtually all of the major civil and human rights events in the 1950s and 1960s. For her tireless efforts on behalf of the less fortunate, President Ronald Reagan presented her with the Citizens Medal Award for distinguished service to the country in 1989.
Dr. Height was known for her extensive international and developmental education work. She initiated the sole African American private voluntary organization working in Africa in 1975, building on the success of NCNW’s assignments in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. In three decades of national leadership, she has served on major policy-making bodies affecting women, social welfare, economic development, and civil and human rights. She has received numerous appointments and awards. Her most recent recognition included appointment to the Advisory Council of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) by President Bush and to the National Advisory Council on Aging by Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan.
Her awards are extensive, with the most recent ones including the Stellar Award; the Spirit of Cincinnati Ambassador Award; the Camille Cosby World of Children Award; the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged Living Legacy Award; the Caring Award by the Caring Institute; NAFEO Distinguished Leadership Award; the Olender Foundation’s Generous Heart Award; and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Freedom From Want Award. She received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in July 1993 and was inducted into The National Women’s Hall of Fame in October 1993. She also received nineteen honorary doctorates from colleges and universities. As president of NCNW, Dorothy Irene Height has an outstanding record of accomplishments. As a self-help advocate, she has been instrumental in initiating NCNW sponsored food, childcare, housing, and career education programs that embody the principles of self-reliance.
Throughout her career, Dr. Dorothy I. Height has been a leader in the struggle for equality and human rights for all people. Her life exemplifies her passionate commitment to a just society and her vision of a better world. As a promoter of Black family life, she conceived and organized the Black Family Reunion Celebration in 1986 to reinforce the African American family's historic strengths and traditional values. This multi-city cultural event has attracted 11.5 million people in its ninth year. Dr. Dorothy I. Height’s lifetime of achievement measures the liberation of Black America, the advancement of women’s rights, and the most determined effort to lift the poor and the powerless. Dream giver and earth-shaker, Height followed and expanded on the original purpose of the National Council of Negro Women, giving new meaning, new courage, and pride to women, youth, and families everywhere.
Dr. Dorothy Height died on April 20, 2010, at Howard University hospital.