When we made a documentary about The Lincoln Memorial for our American Icons series, one person captured two seminal moments in the Memorial's history for us: Dorothy Height. She was at the Memorial in 1939 when Marian Anderson sang triumphantly after being banned from performing at Constitution Hall. And she was at the podium when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his 'I Have a Dream' speech in 1963.
Height was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, and is considered to be one of the most influential women of the civil rights movement. She died yesterday at age 98.
Height spoke to Studio 360 in 2005. It was awe-inspiring to meet someone who considered Eleanor Roosevelt to be her friend. When Height talked about seeing Marian Anderson sing and Martin Luther King, Jr. speak, you felt like you were right there with her. She also wore a fantastic hat -- apparently hats were her signature fashion statement. In this excerpt from the Lincoln Memorial episode, Height recounts, in crystal-clear detail, her memory of Anderson's concert at the Memorial.
The day we talked to her, Height expressed concern to us that the civil rights generation might be a victim of its own success. She feared that the next generation had taken these groundbreaking achievements for granted. In remembering Dorothy Height's life, we hope to help keep that legacy alive.