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Eleanor Hinton Hoytt

Widely recognized and honored as one of the great civil rights and women’s rights leaders of contemporary history, Dorothy Irene Height spent decades inspiring and leading countless organizations in the struggle for equality and human rights for all people. To mark her ninety-second birthday on 24 March 2004, Dorothy Irene Height was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush. The ceremony in the Capital Rotunda in Washington was to honor her lifetime of achievements and service to the country as one of the preeminent social justice and civil rights activists of her time.

In her memoir, Open Wide the Freedom Gates, Height chronicles her life and work for justice, equality, and opportunity for women and black families. In it, she recounts her close relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune, as well as her encounters with W. E. B. Du Bois ...


Thea Gallo Becker

Addie D. Waites Hunton was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the daughter of Jesse Waites, an oyster and shipping business owner, and Adelina Lawton. Addie attended public school and belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Her mother died when she was a young child, and she was sent to live with an aunt in Boston. She attended Boston Girls' Latin (High) School and, in 1889, became the first African American woman to graduate from the Spencerian College of Commerce in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She taught for a year in Portsmouth, Virginia, before moving to Normal, Alabama, to teach and later become principal of the State Normal and Agricultural College.

In 1893 Addie Waites returned to Norfolk, where on July 19 she married William Alphaeus Hunton of Chatham, Ontario. He had moved to Norfolk in 1888 to become the first African American professional youth ...


Lois J. Einhorn

writer and activist, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the ninth of ten children of William Patterson Allen, a lawyer, and Mary Magdalene Rice Hayes Allen, a college professor. Across the street from the home where Carrie McCray was born is the campus of Virginia Seminary. McCray's mother served as interim president of this black Baptist seminary from 1906 to 1908. When she was almost seven years old McCray's family moved from Lynchburg to Montclair, New Jersey. Except for the first two years in New Jersey her family spent every summer back in Lynchburg. Throughout her childhood McCray's parents instilled in her a love of poetry, an appreciation for her ancestors, and an understanding of how education provided a path to freedom. In childhood McCray also learned how to remain optimistic even in dark times and how to treat all people with respect, kindness, and compassion.McCray ...


Carolyn Wedin

white settlement-house worker, journalist, author, and NAACP cofounder, chair (1919–1932), and treasurer (1932–1947). Born in Brooklyn Heights, New York, Mary White Ovington was the third child of four of Theodore and Louise Ketcham Ovington. With his brother, her father founded and grew the Ovington Brothers gift shops, which provided a comfortable living when economic times were good but which suffered fires and bankruptcy when depressions hit, as in 1893 when Mary had to leave what was then called the Harvard Annex (later Radcliffe College) without obtaining a degree.

To her Unitarian upbringing Ovington credited her lifelong determination to base actions on fact and reason rather than emotion As the only unmarried of three daughters she fought against the expectation that she would stay home to take care of her aging parents but she also was unsuited to the teaching or nursing roles available to women of ...


Betty Winston Bayé

journalist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the third of John Trevillian and DeSylvia (Chase) Wickham's five children. John and DeSylvia Wickham were a cab driver and store clerk, respectively.

In his autobiography Woodholme: A Black Man's Story of Growing Up Alone (1995) Wickham recounted how in the early hours of 17 December 1954, his father, apparently distraught that he could not afford to buy Christmas gifts for his family, shot and killed his wife and then turned the .32-caliber revolver on himself. Wickham's parents were found inside his father's powder-blue 1950 Plymouth station wagon. Besides John Wickham's suicide note to his mother, a twenty-dollar money order, and the couple's wedding rings, police also recovered twenty-one photographs of a black boy—his school pictures, Wickham wrote.

The Wickham children were parceled out among relatives. Eight-year-old DeWayne and his brother John Rodney were taken in ...