Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Remembrance of Dr. Dorothy I. Height

I am sure that many others will have more substantive things to say about the passing Dr. Dorothy I. Height, but I would like to add my own thoughts regarding this Civil Rights and Women's Rights giant. Regal doesn't seem to be a sufficient term to describe Dr. Height's comportment, and transformational doesn't seem really to convey satisfactorily her role in two of the most important social revolutions in American history, but I will stick to those terms.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Height twice during my time in Washington, DC, and they were both at events honoring the contributions of black folks. Dr. Height, who was in her wheelchair by then, congratulated me on my efforts to help spread the word about the importance of the black community really embracing historic preservation to help tell a more rich American story. I was truly humbled.

I think that it is also important to remember that Dr. Height provided pointed critiques to both the Civil Rights Movement (for sublimating the roles of women within the movement) and the Women's Rights Movement (for ignoring the realities of black women, who have been working since their arrival in 1619). Dr. Height was also one, through her work with YWCA, the National Council of Negro Women and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., who helped to provide "boots" to black folks who needed to pick themselves up by those proverbial "boot straps," and she embodied the true spirit of what effective community organizing could indeed achieve.

One of the things I did not know about Dr. Height (a Virginian, by the way) was that she was first awarded and then later denied admission into Barnard College, because Barnard had met its quota of two black women. Barnard eventually provided Dr. Height with an apology and an honorary degree. With that said, I hope that folks will take some time to learn more about this remarkable American. And I am guessing that the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. will be donning their most fabulous hats in recognition of Dr. Height's signature fashion accessory. May she rest in peace.

Finally, I would like to say that even though I elected not to do a blog post about the passing of another Civil Rights leader, former NAACP head, Benjamin Hooks, I think it would be in bad form not to mention that the country lost another important American historical figure with his earlier passing as well.

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