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Tribute: Dr. Dorothy Height

posted by Nell Minow

“She led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement — witnessing every march and milestone along the way. And even in the final weeks of her life — a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest — Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background and faith.” President Barack Obama

Dr. Dorothy Height died today at age 98. She was a part of almost a century of progress for African-Americans and for women. As a teenager, she protested lynchings. As the leader of the National Council of Negro Women, she stood on the stage with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington. She is an icon of courage, dignity, vision, and inspiration. In her memoir, Open Wide The Freedom Gates: A Memoir, she wrote about her “ministry of presence,” starting with small, inter-racial meetings of women for Bible study and fellowship.

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Dr. Height liked to quote the words of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass: “Agitate, agitate, agitate.” But she was never shrill or harsh; her personal example of grace was one of her most powerful and compelling weapons. I hope all of us honor her memory by working a little harder for education, equality, and justice.

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