Dorothy Height: Sharing MLK’s Dream
Dorothy Irene Height met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was a gifted student entering Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of 15.
Born in Richmond, Va., in 1912, Height marched at major civil rights rallies, sat onstage with King when he delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech, and was president of the National Council for Negro Women for more than 40 years.
Narrator: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for equality for all. Many United Methodists valued his vision and his leadership. Dorothy Height described King’s impact on her and others.
Choir: “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah. Pilgrim through this barren land, God.”
Dorothy Height: I first met Martin Luther King Jr. when he was just 15 years old. In a sense Martin Luther King Jr. was like any 15-year-old, but there was a maturity that one could not fail to sense. There was a kind of depth that was, in itself, something that I found inspiring. And he always had, not only a concern about big issues, but I liked the way he was equally concerned about what happened to women and to children. I would say to Dr. King that I’m grateful, and I think millions are, that in his messages he made clear something about what the beloved community is about. He made us understand more about the importance of nonviolence and of learning how to work together across many different lines. And I would have to say to him, when he finished speaking in 1963 and we quickly moved…got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that I’m sure there were millions like me who thought, “Now we’re well on our way,” But I would say that we have to reach back and try to get some of that spirit moving. I have to believe we can make a better life. It’s my faith that it is not meant that we should be destroying each other. And I cherish the fact that I got to know and to work with Dr. King and to gain from him the courage and the inspiration, really, to stand up against the odds, to keep working. For me, one of the blessings of my life was the opportunity to work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dorothy Height was assistant director of the Harlem Women YMCA and was responsible for that organization’s full commitment to integration. She was elected national president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1947.
She received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan in 1989 and the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994. Open Wide the Freedom Gates, her memoir, was published in 2003. Dorothy Height died in 2010.
Height's words were included in a series about those who walked with King.
Media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, 615-742-5458.
This encore video was first posted in February, 2015.