Reaching New Heights in the Civil Rights Movement

Emma Lange, Staff Writer

Dorothy Height was an African-American woman who believed in equal rights for women and African-Americans. In 1994 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and ten years later, the Congressional Gold Medal ( Editors).

Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1912, this civil rights and women’s rights activist was an excellent student who was accepted into colleges including Columbia University and Barnard College. However, Ms. Height was not allowed to go to Barnard because she was African American, and they only allowed two African Americans to attend. Instead she went to Columbia University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in education, and a master’s degree in psychology (NPR).

Her first job out of college was as a social worker in Harlem. While engaged in this profession, she joined the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and quickly became a pioneer, working to make it inclusive and diverse through establishing their Center for Racial Justice. The counsel ran for twelve years, and through the counsel she became a pioneer in the civil rights movement. In the YWCA she ended the separate conferences, one for African American people and one for white people (YW News). 

Height then joined NCNW, National Council of Negro Women. Throughout her time in the NCNW her main focus was “ending the lynching of African Americans and restructuring the criminal justice system” ( Editors). She became the fourth president of the NCNW in 1957 ( Editors). The main purpose of the NCNW is to “express the concerns and beliefs of African American women in regard to national and international affairs” (The Editors of Encyclopedia). When she was the NCNW leader, she also supported voter registration in the south (Norwood). Currently, the NCNW still is connecting people, specifically African American women. Height continued as the president of the NCNW until the late 1990s ( Editors).

To illustrate how deeply entrenched she was in the fight for civil rights, consider this: Dorothy Height was also the only person standing next to Martin Luther King Junior during his “I have a dream speech.” His words inspired millions of people, and the day after the speech “Height organized a meeting… in which women in the movement could address racism and sexism.” (NPR). She “focused on equality and fairness for more than 30 years and she had dedicated her life to those battles.” (NPR).

Height lived until she was 98, and died in 2010, in Washington DC. To honor her efforts for her fellow Americans, Height was put on the  “Forever stamp honoring her civil rights legacy” ( Editors). Without a doubt, Dorothy Height put her stamp on the qualities that define our country and the ideals that we strive to uphold.

Citation Information:

Article Title:  Dorothy Height Biography

Author: Editors

Website Name: The website


Access Date: 02/11/23

Publisher: A&E; Television Networks

Last Updated : April 1, 2021

Original Publish Date: April 1, 2021


Article Title: Celebrating Women – The Life And Legacy Of Dorothy Height


Website Name: YWCA St. Paul


Access Date: 02/13/23

Publisher: YWCA St. Paul

Last Updated :

Original Publish Date: March 8, 2021


Article Title: Civil Rights Activist Dorothy Height Dies


Website Name: NPR


Access Date: 02/10/23

Publisher: NPR

Last Updated :

Original Publish Date: 4/20/10


Article Title:  Dorothy Height

Author: Norwood, Arlisha

Website Name: National Women’s History Museum


Access Date: 02/12/23

Publisher: National Women’s History Museum

Last Updated :

Original Publish Date: 2017


Article Title: Dorothy Height

Author: The Editors of Encyclopedia

Website Name: Encyclopedia Britannica


Access Date: 02/09/23

Publisher: Encyclopedia Britannica

Last Updated : May 31, 2022

Original Publish Date: April 26, 1999



file name of image –  Dorothy Height (13270321444).jpg

original source link- 


file name of image: Dr. Dorothy I. Height with Calvin Earl.jpg

original source link:


file name of image: DorothyHeight Book Nordstrom VA 15feb97.jpg

original source link: 

Date – June 29, 2005 

Name of Photographer – Elvert Bames


file name of image: DrDorothyHeight.jpg

original source link: 

Date – June 18, 2008

Name of Photographer – Adrian Hood