January 29, 2004 Civil Rights Activist Dorothy Height To Discuss New Book at the Library on February 24

Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456, Library of Congress; Kasey Pfaff (212) 397-6666, Perseus Books

Civil rights activist and social reformer Dorothy Height will discuss her new book, “Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir” (Perseus Books), at the Library of Congress at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 24, in the Mumford Room, sixth floor, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a book-signing.

Described in the book’s foreword by author Maya Angelou as “a giant among mighty women,” Dorothy Height has been a leading force in the civil rights movements since the 1930s. Her memoirs chronicle the movement and the people she met along the way - W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Langston Hughes and her mentor Mary McLeod Bethune.

Born in Richmond, Va., in 1912 and educated in the public schools in Rankin, Pa., Height earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University and did postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work. Employed in many capacities by both government and social service organizations, she became an influential figure in the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and Delta Sigma Theta Inc., a public service sorority. Years after being denied admission to a YWCA swimming pool, Height rose through the ranks of the organization. In 1965 she became director of the organization’s newly established Office of Racial Justice. She similarly carried the NCNW and Delta Sigma Theta to new levels of organizational development through her leadership.

During her career, Height traveled extensively throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America on various leadership training and human rights missions. Her distinguished service and contributions to making the world more just and humane have earned her more than 50 awards and honors from local, state and national organizations and the federal government. In 1974 Ladies Home Journal named her “Woman of the Year” in human rights, and the Congressional Black Caucus presented her with the William L. Dawson Award for “decades of public service to people of color and particularly women.” She received the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in July 1993 and was inducted into the “National Women’s Hall of Fame” later that year. In 1994, President Clinton presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She holds honorary degrees from more than 20 universities, including Harvard, Howard, Princeton and Tuskegee Institute.

“Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir” will be available for $26 at the event and thereafter through the Library of Congress Sales Shop, Washington, DC 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557.


PR 04-010
ISSN 0731-3527