What’s really terrific about Black History is that it’s American History.
April 20, 2013 will mark the three year commemoration of the death / passing of Ms. Dorothy Irene Height, one of America's greatest champions of Civil and Women's Rights. Born on March 24, 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, Ms. Height would have turned 101 years old this year.
All that knew Ms. Dorothy Height can attest that she was an extraordinary woman of amazing grace and true grit that fought tirelessly her entire life to light the "lanterns of freedom" held by all women that are subjected to the darkness of racism, classism and sexism.
The exploits of Ms. Height's courage and grit as a civil rights and women's rights pioneer are legendary.
Fearless, she lived during a time in American history when Black women were considered third-class citizens and were often subjected to the threat of rape, whippings and hangings by insidious racists that used violent crimes to silence their critics.
As a young adult she once marched into New York's Time Square and vociferously demanded the end of the southern systematic extermination of Blacks by shouting "Stop the lynching".
A friend once said of her, "knowing Dorothy Heights is like being touched by an angel'".
It is because we honor and celebrate her life accomplishments that this article is written. Rest in peace Ms. Height, may your legacy of civil and women rights live on forever. Oh...and please send our love and regards to Betty Shabazz, Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks, for surely they all knew you in life as their mentor and in "passing" as their angelic guide. The world is less a better place without you.
Celebrating an extraordinary life
Miss Dorothy Irene Height, the world renown civil rights and women rights activist who was born in then racially segregated Richmond, Virginia on March 24, 1912, quietly passed on to Glory on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98 at the Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Miss Height's achievements in both civil rights and women rights began during an era in U.S. history when southern Jim Crow laws threatened to emasculate the newly freed African American's will to achieve the freedoms that were promised to all Americans as mandated in the U.S. Constitution. Miss Height understood that denying an equal and qualitative education to Blacks would forever condemn Blacks to a life of sharecropping and menial low paying labor jobs.
Armed with truths that were inspired from the Bible and blessed by God to be able to partially deflect the "arrows" of racial prejudices via a shield that was forged by a master's degree in educational psychology- which she earned in 1933 from New York University - Miss Height never looked back from her rejection from New York's Barnard College because the school had already met their annual quota of enrolling two Black women. Incidentally, in recognition of its grievous mistake in rejecting Miss Height as a student in 1928, at its 1980 commencement ceremonies, Barnard College awarded Miss Height its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction.
After graduating from New York University, Miss Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women.
Focused and determined, Miss Height fought especially hard for Black Americans who lived below the Mason Dixon Line, a distinction that nearly categorized southern Blacks as being an "endangered species".
With the same zeal and enthusiasm that possessed Miss Height to tirelessly fight for the advancement of African Americans, she took on the additional task of committing herself as an advocate for the rights of women of all races, everywhere.
Instrumental in bringing national attention to the powerless plight of American women who were subjugated by states laws to a status of "second class citizen", Miss Height became a personal friend to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who like Miss Height was determined to bring positive social change to America.
In 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. She also served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority from 1946 to 1957. Miss Height the consummate educator and activist, remained actively involved with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority thought-out her life. Focused on intertwining her faith with her mission of empowering the socially down and trampled, Miss Height developed leadership training programs and interracial and ecumenical education programs that enabled millions of Americans to see beyond race.
In 1957, Miss Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Dorothy Height organized "Wednesdays in Mississippi", which brought together Black and White women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding.
From American Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt to President Obama, Miss Height has served as both an adviser and confidant on the issues of race relations and women rights. She was the mentor of countless Americans who dedicated their lives to fulfilling the vision of what our country could be. She knew the dreamer -Martin Luther King Jr. - when he was just a promising and talented teenager. She was on the stage when Dr. King delivered his timeless "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. In reality, Miss Height was a "godmother" to every American who believed in justice and equality.
In her lifetime, Miss Height was honored with two of our nation’s most prestigious awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
At her funeral almost three years ago, President Obama summed up her quiet humbleness by stating:
"She was raised in a different America, beyond the experience of many. And yet, one of the ironies is that year after year, decade in, decade out, Dr. Height went about her work quietly, without fanfare, without self-promotion. She never cared about who got the credit for the good deeds that she accomplished."
The mourners that attended her funeral which was held at the Washington National Cathedral included President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, among countless others.
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, who oversaw the funeral arrangements, announced to her family and friends, "Miss Height will be buried at the Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Maryland".
In closing, the death of Miss Dorothy Height who was born in the confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, and grew up in a Western Pennsylvania steel town in the Monongahela River Valley called Rankin, adjacent to Pittsburgh, signifies the passing of a great American who loved what America promised in terms of equality and freedom.
It is the sincere wish of the author of this article that Miss Height is somewhere in Heaven seated at a banquet table with Martin and Eleanor; three old friends who are full of great stories and memories, Americans who gave their best in life in order to make our country the beacon of light that shines brightly in a lighthouse of freedom that still steers the wandering and the lost. America misses you Dorothy, you were truly an angel amongst us. May you rest in peace and may Mahalia sing you lullabies for all eternity. Good night and sweet dreams.
As always, the New Orleans Examiner is interested in what you think. Is Black History embraced by all Americans as American history? And in essence is Miss Height the “Grandmother” of the modern-age civil rights movement? Inquiring minds want to know. Sound off.
Until next time Louisianans, Good Day, God Bless, and Good Fishing.