By: Lydazja Turner
Today we celebrate an incredible man whose legacy will forever be imprinted on American history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is famed for being the face the of the Civil Rights Movement and for his dedication to speaking against injustice, inequality, poverty, and war. The MLK Day of Service calls for Americans to come together despite many different walks of life, and work towards common resolutions for the most pressing issues in our communities. Dr. King had a community of people working behind him.
We often hear of the great works of Dr. King, but we rarely hear about the Black women who worked alongside him to make his dreams come true. Although countless others played vital roles throughout the movement for civil rights, it is often Black men who received credit for the movement’s successes. Today we share on a Black woman whose diligence and sacrifice kept the movement going.
Dorothy Height, coined the “Godmother of Civil Rights”, spent her life fighting for equal rights for both African Americans and women alike. She acted as a trailblazer for the term “intersectionality” as she is credited with being one of the first people to view equality of women and equality of African Americans as one movement. She began her work with the National Council of Negro Women, and was appointed president of the council in 1957. During her forty-year reign that spanned across the most critical years of the Civil Rights movement, she implemented numerous programs aimed at improving the quality of life of African Americans in the South.
Height worked relentlessly at YWCA. She started her first job as a social worker and was eventually appointed the National Director of the Center for Racial Justice. She is renowned for desegregating all levels of the YWCA. Height also influenced the organization to serve as a sponsoring agency for the 1963 March on Washington. YWCA was the only women’s organization recognized in the March. She was the only female member alongside the “Big Six” as the chief organizer for the March. Only one woman stood on the platform behind Dr. King as he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech: YWCA’s very own, Dorothy Height.
Despite gender discrimination in the Civil Rights Movement, Height remained diligent as she acted as the voice amongst her male counterparts fighting for women’s rights, childcare, and education. Dorothy Height passed away on March 25, 2010 at the age of 98 and was eulogized by former President Barack Obama.
On this service day, when you’re pondering Dr. King’s legacy of social justice and equity, remember that his legacy is more than just his dream. It is all of the women and men who were behind him actively working to push the mission forward. This dream was constructed and expedited by more than one singular man. When you think about whose legacy you want to imitate in your own life, think about the Dorothy Heights in our communities, the LGBTQ+ and disability rights activist, and many more who stood behind Dr. King fighting for intersectional rights. We believe the dream is a dream worth sharing.