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Remembering civil rights activist Dorothy Height

April 22, 2010 | 11:16 am


From reader Rochelle Briggs comes this family perspective of Dorothy Height, the civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., spent 41 years as president of the National Council of Negro Women and helped integrate the YWCA, among many other accomplishments. Height died Tuesday at age 98 (Click here to read the full obituary).

Thank you to the Los Angeles Times and Jocelyn Y. Stewart for the informative obituary of our beloved Aunt, Dr. Dorothy Height.

I remember the first time I met her. It was only a few years earlier that I became familiar with her. My husband, William Briggs, told me about his Aunt, Dorothy Height. Listening to the amazing stories of her work with the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, the Presidents she had advised, risking her life in the South during the '50s and '60s and more; I was embarrassed, but even more so, I was angry that I had never learned about this smart, strong, accomplished, fearless woman, Dorothy Height. So when I met her for the first time, at the funeral of my Father-in-Law, I was nervous. Scared, even. She was now, in my mind, the larger than life Dr. Dorothy Height. And who am I?? But there she was coming toward me and my family, this beautiful, elegant woman -- with an equally impressive hat! I would later learn that she was notorious for always wearing a hat. She was immediately warm and inviting, grabbing my hand and speaking with me as if we had known each other for years. Any feelings of nervousness or inferiority vanished. I suspected that this was the effect that she had on many people. Her secret weapon -- a "kill them with kindness" if you will -- type of personality, but certainly not a pushover. It dawned on me later on: no wonder that she has been able to accomplish all that she has. Soon after that meeting, my family and I traveled to Washington, D.C., to watch as she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal from then- President George W. Bush. Just one of many prestigious and well deserved rewards that she received throughout her long and fruitful life. Aunt Dorothy, as I would come to know her, showed me and my daughter, Isabella, that anyone can bring change to a situation and that your contribution does not have to be huge to make a difference. We will miss you terribly, Aunt Dorothy, but know that everything you have done, large and small, will continue to inspire others to do the same.

If you have memories of Dorothy Height, we invite you to post them below.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Dorothy Height in 2007. Credit: Chuck Kennedy / MCT