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Dorothy Height’s Biography and Significance

A leader is a person who has the power to influence a crowd of people to achieve a specific goal in life. A leader must lead by example and be focused and deep-rooted to the plan even if no one supports them. African American female leaders are mostly not recognized as leaders. However, one of these great African American female leaders is Dorothy Height.

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Dorothy Height was born in 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, the United States. She was an African American women’s rights and civil rights activist. Height was a respected leader who focused on improving African American women’s opportunities and circumstances (Chavis, 2020). She graduated from high school in 1929. While in high school, Height won a college scholarship during a public speaking contest and was awarded a four-year college scholarship. In 1932, Height received a bachelor’s degree at New York University and in 1933 received a master’s degree.

After college, she worked for the New York City Welfare as a caseworker. In 1937, she started working with Harlem Young Women’s Christian Association. In 1946, she supervised integration, desegregation effort in all Young Women’s Christian Associations. She helped many civil rights and African American women’s rights activists financially. She fought against killing African Americans and against the criminal justice system.

Height was chosen as the leader of the National Council of Negro Women in the year 1957. Through organizing voter’s education in North, voter’s registration in South, and scholarship for students, she led through civil rights struggles in 1960 (Chavis, 2020). Height helped the National Council of Negro Women to win the award to assist women in opening businesses and provide vocational training. Through her position, she trained the community to be more independent. In the 1990s, she helped youth combine in the groups resisting unemployment, drugs, and illiteracy.

Dorothy Height worked as a social expert for the state, the federal government, and local committees dealing with women’s issues. She also helped the National Council of Negro Women secure funding for national headquarter (Carson, 2019). She performed extremely hard in organizing Wednesday in Mississippi and assisting the organization for freedom and jobs. Height worked with Bayard Rustin on the multiplex logistics in March; she used her enormous contacts to raise funds. Height helped resolve disputes among the March organizers as egos and ideas clashed in the planning process (Tomazelli, 2018). Height was not granted permission to deliver her keynote speech during that day. Height convinced the organizers to allow Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver his speech towards the meeting’s end.

Height continued to serve the community in service on National committees after the Civil Rights Movement. She was celebrated with several awards such as the Congressional Gold Medal (2004) and Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994) (Tomazelli, 2018). Moreover, the United States Postage immortalized her image on their stamps in 2017. In 2002, during her birthday celebration, she raised five million dollars to fund the National Council of Negro Women’s mortgage on Washington D.C headquarters.

Height was a great African American leader who attended all National Black Family Reunion in Washington, D.C. until 2010. On January 20, 2009, she was with President Barack Obama by then. Obama referred to Height as “the godmother of the civil rights movement and a hero to so many Americans” (Tomazelli, 2018). She was the Chairlady of the Executive committee of a group of American civil rights interest groups until 2010.

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In addition to her outstanding job as civil rights and African American women rights activist, she acquired 24 honorary degrees. Height traveled a lot hence becoming a visiting professor at the University of Delhi. In 2004, Height was included in Democracy Hall of Fame International. In April 2010, Height passed away at the age of 98 years. President Barack Obama delivered Heights’ eulogy at Washington National Cathedral (Tomazelli, 2018). Many notable visitors and dignitaries attended her funeral. Height’s passion to be recognized and heard by modern people in order to reintroduce the atmosphere of the African American women’s civil rights movement.


Carson, C. (2019). Black leaders on leadership: Conversations with Julian Bond. The Oral History Review, 44(1), 140-142. Web.

Chavis, E. L. (2020). Kaleidoscope: The beautiful sleight of hand of Dorothy Height’s open wide the freedom gates. (Publishing No. 27996855) [Doctoral dissertation, Bowie State University]. ProQuest Dissertations

Tomazzelli, P. (2018). Dorothy Height. Dissertation. Whitworth University.

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