One of the most important figures in the civil rights movement, Dorothy Height stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for racial equality with towering icons like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Roy Wilkins. Yet, amazingly, her name is barely recognized in mainstream circles. Hopefully, this perfect little gem of an autobiography, written with the eloquence and modest grace that has informed every aspect of its author's remarkable life, will go a long way toward rectifying this oversight.
Born in 1912, Height grew up the smartest girl in Rankin, Pennsylvania, a melting pot of European immigrants and American-born whites and blacks, where she learned early on to respect people's differences and to seek solutions to problems in a spirit of cooperation and inclusion. A natural leader, a persuasive orator, and a skilled facilitator, she found her life's work in the struggle for racial equality and social justice, quickly rising through the ranks in organizations ranging from the YWCA to the National Council of Negro Women and catching the attention of powerful civil rights leaders -- who were smart enough to involve her directly in top-level decisions.
In a life that spanned most of the 20th century, Height has rubbed elbows with W.E.B. Du Bois, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Langston Hughes; she has advised ten presidents and received countless awards. Yet, one of the great charms of this memoir is its unassuming tone. As she lived, so has she written: Dorothy Height has managed to make the prodigious accomplishments of her distinguished 70-year career look like a cooperative effort she was "honored" to be part of. Anne Markowski