Speech Delivered by Dorothy Height at the First Scholarly Conference on Black Women (1979)
The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), founded by Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955), was founded in part to bring together various black women’s groups into one, cohesive unit as they pressed for equal rights. Often, however, the NCNW had to resist sexism within the civil rights movement itself as well, and promoting the greater participation of women in the movement became a central goal of the organization. Bethune’s successor was her protégé, Dorothy Height (1912–2010), who was elected as head of the NCNW in 1957. In the speech below, given in Washington on 13 November 1979, Height reflects on the group’s accomplishments, and issues a challenge to women to rededicate themselves to community service, the family, and the cause of equality. In 2004, Height was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her decades of activism.