Today, GLAAD joins the LGBT community and its allies in mourning the death of social justice pioneer and Civil Rights icon Dorothy Height.
The death, at Howard University Hospital, was confirmed jointly by the hospital and the National Council of Negro Women, which Ms. Height had led for four decades. A longtime Washington resident, Ms. Height was at her death the council’s president emerita.
That the American social landscape looks as it does today owes in no small part to Ms. Height. Originally trained as a social worker, she was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1997, overseeing a range of programs on issues like voting rights, poverty and in later years AIDS. A longtime executive of the Y.W.C.A., she presided over the integration of its facilities nationwide in the 1940s. With Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan and others, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Over the decades, she advised a string of American presidents on civil-rights matters.
Dr. Height also had a long history of supporting LGBT equality.
Height and her friend Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, were among those LGBT allies who worked the halls of Congress in 1996 with Elizabeth Birch, then-president of the Human Rights Campaign, when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act faced its first vote on the Senate floor. Vice President Al Gore was on standby to cast the deciding vote if necessary – but the Senate rejected ENDA 50-49.
“Today we lost a true icon and a voice for oppressed people around the world,” said Rashad Robinson, GLAAD’s Senior Director of Media Programs. “Dr. Height touched countless lives with her mentorship, vision, grace and intellect. I remember first meeting Dr. Height as a young voting rights activist. I started to speak and she stopped me and told me to slow down. I didn't need to rush; people would listen. Dr. Height always let those around her know -- even this overly enthusiastic, fast-talking young activist -- that their voices mattered.”
Dr. Height was 98.