Today’s Google logo marks the 102nd birthday of civil rights leader and women’s rights activist Dorothy Irene Height.
While working at the Harlem YMCA, Height became a force of the civil rights movement after meeting National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) president Mary McLeod Bethune and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during their visit to the facility in 1937.
As a result of the meeting, Height started volunteering for the NCNW, and was eventually named its president, a position she held from 1957 to 1998. In 1965, she also started the YMCA’s Center for Racial Justice, which she led until 1975.
Often defined as the “unsung” hero of the civil rights movement, Height worked alongside the “Big Six” civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, John Lewis and James Farmer. She helped organize the March on Washington, and was the only woman on the platform during Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a dream” speech.
Height joined Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm in 1971 to found the National Women’s Political Caucus and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. During her lifetime, Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
In a 2008 interview with NPR, Height commented on the “unfinished business” of the civil rights movement:
We don’t need the marches we had in the past, but we need more consideration in looking at the boardroom tables and at the policies that are going on – looking at what’s happening in industry, what’s happening in terms of employment opportunities, housing and the like.
President Barack Obama ordered flags flown at half-mast in Height’s honor when she died at the age of 98 in April of 2010.