Georgia as Dorothy Height

Her Story: Dorothy Height

Celebrating Women's History with Georgia as Dorothy Height, Civil Rights Movement leader and activist.

Dorothy Irene Height (1912-2010), civil rights and women’s rights activist, is recognized as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. 

Born in 1912, in Richmond, Virginia and raised in Rankin, Pennsylvania where Height excelled as a student. In high school she joined the anti-lynching protests, this turned out to be just the beginning of her distinguishing career in social and political justice. 

Height was a talented orator in high school and won a national oratory competition which earned her a college scholarship. In 1929, she was admitted to Barnard College but was not allowed to attend because the school had already met their allotted quota of African Americans – 2. Height was heartbroken but did not give up, instead, she immediately headed to New York University and was admitted on the spot. Height earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, and a Masters in Educational Psychology from New York University in four years.

At age 25, Height began her career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) after meeting the organizer’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune. Through Height’s work at the NCNW, she fought for equal rights  and improving circumstances for both African Americans and women. She eventually became the president of NCNW, which she led for 40 years until 1997.

Because of Height’s acclaim in the civil rights movement and her exceptional knowledge in organizing, she was frequently called on to give advice on political issues. She frequently counseled Dwight D. Eisenhower, Elenor Rosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1963, Height co-organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

One of Height’s most inspiring accomplishments includes the creation of “Wednesdays in Mississippi“, bringing together black and white women from the North and South to open up the dialogue about civil rights and support each other. Height was also a founding member of the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership, an umbrella group formed in 1963 to organize and regulate the Civil Rights Movement. Height is considered one of the “Big Six”, but her role was frequently ignored by the press and left out of our history books due to sexism.

Over the years Height was recognized by many organizations for all her efforts during the Civil Rights Movement and received an estimated 24 honorary degrees. In 1989, she received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan. In 2004, Height was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal and inducted into the Democracy Hall of Fame International.

President Obama put out a statement on the day Dorothy Height Passed away in 2010 calling her “the Godmother of the civil rights movement”:

“Dr Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality. She led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, and served as the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement – witnessing every march and milestone along the way. And even in the final weeks of her life – a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest – Dr Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background and faith.”

Women's History Month: Honoring Dorothy Height, Civil Rights Movement Leader

“If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.” 

-Dorothy Height

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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