Dorothy Height, Queen of the Civil Rights Movement, Dead at 98

7 years ago

Dorothy Height, matriarch of the civil rights movement and women's rights activist, died today at age 98. She is best known for her work in racial and gender equality. She labored tirelessly to enforce the 14th amendment of the Constitution.

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According to her obituary in the Washington Post (she resided in Washington, D.C. at the end of her life), Heights was the "president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years...In 1994, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor."

File photo of civil rights leader Dorothy Height attending an event in Washington

Bloggers mourned her passing with their own thoughts.

Anna N. at Jezebel has a beautiful tribute to her, including pointing out that her work on women's rights started long before there was a formal movement. Anna also provides Height's famous quote: "If the times aren't ripe, you have to ripen the times."

Goddessdreams wrote a moving post here on BlogHer.

Her life was one of unflinching dedication to ending racism and uplifting black folks to lives of purpose, abundance, and positivity. Yes, I could have written about Benjamin Hooks, who also passed away this week, and his deeds. Men are always remembered and praised. I choose to hold up the women because they had to overcome not only racism, but the expectations and prejudices attached to their gender.

Frau Sally Benz at Feministe points out that Height was the only woman on stage for Martin Luther King Jr's "I Had a Dream" speech.

File photo of Dorothy Height being honored in Washington

It was an interaction Height had in India that most influenced her work in the United States. Indira Gandhi, at the time the daughter of the prime minister Nehru and later a prime minister herself, taught Height the importance of "helping people with all your heart."

In the video below, Height tells a story of her pivotal conversation with Gandhi that influenced all of her civil rights work -- about being an advocate for the people, about understanding how people feel about asking for help and how they want to do things for themselves. She worked to help people help themselves.

Height's final advice to the younger generation she leaves behind: "Find a purpose, and work with it. Stay by your purpose. Don't let other people pull you off ... relate to people of all backgrounds and appreciate the differences and learn that you can work together."

This is final video interview of Dorothy Height, created on March 15 by I Care Village. I challenge you to watch it without crying, without recognizing what the world lost today, and without being moved to find your own purpose and work with it.

Note: Height's is the second death this week of a major player in the civil rights movement. Benjamin Hooks, former NAACP executive director and the "first black judge in a trial court in any Southern state," died recently; another activist who worked tirelessly to open closed doors.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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