By Beth Dalbey (Patch Staff) – February 12, 2017 9:05 pm ET
DETROIT, MI — A U.S. postage stamp honoring civil rights icon Dorothy Height will be unveiled Monday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Height, often called one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, dedicated her life to fighting for racial and gender equality.
The ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m Monday at the museum, located at 315 E. Warren Ave., in Detroit. It is free and open to the public. The museum is partnering with the U.S. Postal Service, the YWCA, the National Council of Negro Woman and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. in the unveiling, of the stamp, the latest in the Black History Commemorative Forever stamp series.
The United States Postal Service announced the stamp on Feb. 1 as part of Black History Month.
One of the most influential civil and women’s rights leaders of the 20th century, she was born in Virginia in 1912 and died in Washington, D.C., in 2010. Among numerous honors presented to her during her lifetime were the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
She worked closely with the “Big Six” of the civil rights movement — Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, John Lewis and James Farmer, according to biography.com. She helped organize the March on Washington in 1963 and sat near the podium where King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech, but was not invited to speak, despite having pushed to have women’s voices represented at the podium.
“They were happy to include women in the human family,” Height once told the Los Angeles Times, “but there was no question as to who headed the household.”
In an account of her death in 2010, The New York Times wrote:
“If Ms. Height was less well known than her contemporaries in either the civil rights or women’s movement, it was perhaps because she was doubly marginalized, pushed offstage by women’s groups because of her race and by black groups because of her sex. Throughout her career, she responded quietly but firmly, working with a characteristic mix of limitless energy and steely gentility to ally the two movements in the fight for social justice.
“As a result, Ms. Height is widely credited as the first person in the modern civil rights era to treat the problems of equality for women and equality for African-Americans as a seamless whole, merging concerns that had been largely historically separate.”
But she took it in stride, often telling her co-workers to “stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care and low wages,” according to The Washington Post.
In 1971, she worked with the Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm to found the National Women’s Political Caucus.
She was a star student in high school, graduating at age 16, and was accepted to New York’s Barnard College, an exclusive private women’s liberal arts college founded in 1889 in response to Columbia University’s refusal to admit women, but was rejected because the college had met its annual quota of two African-American students. Instead, she went to New York University, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work in four years.
She was a force in the YWCA in the 1930s, helping to shape the national agenda and tackling segregation. The organization once held separate national conferences for white and black leaders, a practice she was able to bring to an end at a time when integration was able to bring to an end.
She was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1998. According to the LA Times, one of her most visible achievements was the three-day Black Family Reunion Celebration in Washington, D.C., in 1986, to counter negative images of the African American family.
Still politically active in the 1990s, she waged a war against drugs, illiteracy and unemployment in black communities.
Upon her death in 2010, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Height “understood that women’s rights and civil rights are indivisible. She stood up for the rights of women every chance she had.”
Former President Barack Obama called Height “the godmother of the civil rights movement.”
Height once famously said:
“I have been in the proximity of, and threatened by, the Klan; I have been called everything people of color are called; I have been denied admission because of a quota. I’ve had all of that, but I’ve also learned that getting bitter is not the way.”
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