Dorothy I. Height

Quick Look At Height

Dorothy I. Height was an activist, and she was one of the most prominent female leaders during the modern Civil Rights Movement. She fought to end lynching and change the justice system, but most importantly, she fought for equal rights.

Early Life

Dorothy Irene Height was born on March 24, 1912, in Richmond, Virginia. Height and her family later moved to Rankin, Pennsylvania, and here, she proved to be an excellent scholar. Her activism started really young. As a teen, Height gathered a group of peers to peacefully protest against discriminatory policies that prevented Black children from sharing pools and going to school with White children. She attended Rankin High School and she continued to display outstanding scholarship. In 1929, Height got admitted to Barnard College, but she wasn't allowed to go because it was an all-White school, and did not accept African Americans. In lieu of attending Barnard College, she went to New York University where she later received her bachelor's degree in education and her master's in psychology.


After College, Height's first job was working as a social worker in Harlem, and after a while, she joined the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). Not too long after joining the YWCA, Height became a natural leader in the group. She encouraged the organization to become nationwide and helped to create diverse programs and groups within the organization. Her work with the YWCA was focused on Civil Rights and becoming more diverse, but later, Height joined the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) because an encounter with another African American activist, Mary McLeod Bethune left her inspired. In 1957, she became the president of the NCNW, and here, she fought against lynching and worked to reconstruct the criminal justice system. Height was known for being one of the first leaders to see the problems African Americans faced and the problems women faced as a whole. She put many social programs in place to help improve the condition of living for African Americans in the south. She focused on improving political mobilization for African Americans and women. Political mobilization are events that encourage people, in this case, minorities, to participate in social and political events like voting. A lot of how Height expressed the need for change was not only by creating programs and organizations but by speaking. She was the only woman to regularly speak alongside The Big Six, the organizers of the Civil Rights Movement. Though she was not allowed to speak during the March on Washington because she was a woman, she worked behind the scenes as one of the lead organizers of the event, and the NCNW, the organization that she led was the only women's organization to be recognized during the March on Washington. Height was regularly consulted by Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson for advice on political issues.

Later, at the dedication of the Headquarters of the NCNW, Height spoke these words; “Through this last century, we learned that it is in the neighborhoods and communities where the world begins. That is where children grow and families are developed, where people exercise their power to change their lives…. Building on my religious faith deeply rooted in my childhood and youth, I found my life’s work. I am the product of many whose lives have touched mine, from the famous, distinguished, and powerful to the little known and the poor. The past has taught me many lessons—most especially, that I have a responsibility to future generations.”

In her life, Dorothy I. Height received an estimated amount of 24 honorary degrees, In 1974, she was named to the National Council for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, In 1989, she received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan and in 2004, Height was received the Congressional Gold Medal. The same year, Height was inducted into the Democracy Hall of Fame International. On April 20, 2010, at the age of 98, Dorothy I. Height died.

Dorothy I. Height was truly a leader, and she changed the way of the world for the better.