Civil Rights Leader Dorothy Height, 98, Dies

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dorothy Height, one of the leading female voices of the civil rights movement, died early today of natural causes at a Washington, D.C. hospital. She was 98 years old.

Height spent most of her life working with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and others to desegregate schools and the military, and on getting equal access for women and African-Americans to jobs, public accommodations and the polling place.

The life-long activist was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before she got into organizing, she worked as a New York City caseworker, and did her undergraduate and graduate work at New York University, and her postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New School of Social Work. In 1938, while working for the Harlem YWCA, Height escorted Eleanor Roosevelt into a meeting for the National Council of Negro Women. She later became president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1997 and worked on nutrition, child care, housing and career counseling programs. In 1995, The Washington Post reports that Height was one of the only women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall.

In 2008, she told National Public Radio that there was still work to be done as far as civil rights were concerned. "We don't need the marches we had in the past," Height said. "But we need more consideration in looking at the boardroom tables and at the policies that are going on--looking at what's happening in industry, what's happening in terms of employment opportunities, housing and the like."

The Associated Press reports that President Barack Obama is calling Height "the godmother of the civil rights movement" and a hero to many Americans. The President says Height was the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement and witnessed "every march and milestone along the way."

Height is survived by her sister, Anthanette Height Aldridge, according to The Post.

For more coverage from The Takeaway on this story, click here.

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