by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dorothy Height was born on the same day as my father (March 24). I'm not sure if that means anything, but it sure feels significant to me. Like my father, Height has had a dramatic influence on how I see the world, and what it means to have courage. She was accepted to Barnard College (the sister school for Columbia University), but not allowed to attend the school because they'd already accepted their two black students for the year. When my goddaughter takes it for granted that she attends Barnard today, I remind her of the struggles of Dorothy Height.
Barnard eventually apologized to Height for not admitting her to the university, but some apologies come entirely too late. By the age of 68, Dorothy had reached retirement age: too old to attend Barnard, but still young and restless in her tireless quest for social justice. Her journey for justice would continue another 30 years after the 1980 apology by the university. This reminds us that it's never too late for us to start changing the world, and the best time to start that process is now.
Representing the beauty of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc, Height served as president of the organization for over a decade. She also advised kings and queens in America, standing next to Dr. Martin Luther King in addition to Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. She reminded Eisenhower that black kids should be allowed to attend the same schools as whites, and helped President Johnson understand that black women deserve to serve at the highest levels of government.