‘Godmother of Civil Rights Movement’ Dorothy Height honored with Forever Stamp
Civil rights and gender equality activist Dorothy Height helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and shared the stage with Martin Luther King Jr. when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech.
On Tuesday, the National Council of Negro Women and the U.S. Postal Service honored Height and her lifelong activism by dedicating the Dorothy Height Commemorative Stamp at a ceremony at the Rankin Christian Center.
Height was born in Virginia but grew up in Rankin. She died in 2010 at age 98.
“Dorothy Height worked tirelessly to advocate for racial and gender equality and inspired countless men and women to work in support of social justice issues,” said John J. Phelan, the postal service’s Eastern Area operations manager. “So great was Dr. Height’s influence and accomplishments that after learning of her death, President Barack Obama called her the ‘Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.’ Dr. Height earned this title from her roles in events that sparked the civil rights movement and shaped American history.”
The “forever” stamp shows a smiling Height dressed in purpleand wearing a hat. She is the 40th person and 15th woman to be honored with a stamp in the postal service’s Black Heritage series.
Height worked 40 years for the Young Women’s Christian Association, retiring in 1977. She was named president of the National Council of Negro Women in 1957 and held the position until 1997. She was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which promotes public service in black communities.
During the ceremony, Penny Graves, a black woman, was sworn in as the postmaster of neighboring Braddock.
Height would have approved, said Diane Larche, national membership chairwoman for the National Council of Negro Women.
“This is so her,” Larche said. “She was all about the promotion of women and people in general and our children. … This is all Dr. Height. I think she’s up there with God working this out.”
Height established the Center of Racial Justice and was named by President John F. Kennedy to the Commission on the Status of Women, which was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Height was awarded the country’s two highest civilian honors: the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from Bill Clinton, and Congressional Gold Medal, from George W. Bush.
She fought tirelessly for minorities and women and, as a result, cemented her place in history long before her death, said Magdeline Jensen, CEO of YWCA Greater Pittsburgh.
“When you look at pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington and those around him who helped plan it,” Jensen said, “the only woman standing there is Dorothy Height.”
Chris Togneri is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5632 or [email protected].