Tag Archives: civil rights

Legendary Singer and Activist Lena Horne Dies at 92

Posted by: TheLCster

AP~Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress known for her plaintive, signature song “Stormy Weather” and for her triumph over the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them, has died. She was 92.

Horne died Sunday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Gloria Chin, who would not release details.

“Her timeless legacy will forever be celebrated as part of the fabric of American popular music, and our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, and fans worldwide as we all mourn the loss of one of music’s signature voices,” Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, said Monday in a statement.

Horne, whose striking beauty often overshadowed her talent and artistry, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success: “I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept,” she once said. “I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.”

“I knew her from the time I was born, and whenever I needed anything she was there. She was funny, sophisticated and truly one of a kind. We lost an original. Thank you Lena,” Liza Minnelli said Monday. Her father, director Vincente Minnelli, brought Horne to Hollywood to star in “Cabin in the Sky,” in 1943.

In the 1940s, Horne was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, to play the Copacabana nightclub in New York City and when she signed with MGM, she was among a handful of black actors to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio.

In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical “Stormy Weather.” Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her most famous tune.

Horne had an impressive musical range, from blues and jazz to the sophistication of Rodgers and Hart in such songs as “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” In 1942’s “Panama Hattie,” her first movie with MGM, she sang Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” winning critical acclaim.

In her first big Broadway success, as the star of “Jamaica” in 1957, reviewer Richard Watts Jr. called her “one of the incomparable performers of our time.” Songwriter Buddy de Sylva dubbed her “the best female singer of songs.”

“It’s just a great loss,” said Janet Jackson Monday. “She brought much joy into everyone’s lives – even the younger generations, younger than myself. She was such a great talent. She opened up such doors for artists like myself.”

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Statement by President Obama and First Lady Michelle on the Passing of Lena Horne

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Lena Horne – one of our nation’s most cherished entertainers. Over the years, she warmed the hearts of countless Americans with her beautiful voice and dramatic performances on screen. From the time her grandmother signed her up for an NAACP membership as a child, she worked tirelessly to further the cause of justice and equality. In 1940, she became the first African American performer to tour with an all white band. And while entertaining soldiers during World War II, she refused to perform for segregated audiences – a principled struggle she continued well after the troops returned home. Michelle and I offer our condolences to all those who knew and loved Lena , and we join all Americans in appreciating the joy she brought to our lives and the progress she forged for our country.”

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The Obama’s and Mourners Attend Funeral and Unseen Footage: Dr. Dorothy I. Height with President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the White House

Posted by: Audiegrl

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 1912 - 2010, RIP

Watch never-before-seen video of President Obama, First Lady Michelle and “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height, during a January intergenerational reflection on the civil rights movement at the White House. She recounts here her memories of meeting one 15 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.

Also, please check out our memorial page to Dr. Height.

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Dorothy Height Funeral: President Obama Honors ‘Godmother’ Of Civil Rights Movement

President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service of civil rights leader Dorothy Height April 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Height led the National Council of Negro Women and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)

AP~President Barack Obama on Thursday eulogized Dorothy Height as a history-making figure in the civil rights movement whose quiet perseverance produced gains in “a righteous cause.”

Speaking to hundreds of mourners in the stately Washington National Cathedral, Obama recounted Height’s commitment to the cause during decades of work, mostly behind the scenes while the movement’s male leaders earned more attention and fame.

“She never cared about who got the credit,” the president said. “What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”

His 13-minute tribute often drew gentle laughter as Obama remembered Height’s doggedness and energy. Height, who died last week at age 98, led the National Council of Negro Women for decades and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Height visited the Obama White House 21 times, the president said. He noted that she was determined to attend a meeting of African-American leaders on unemployment last winter even though she was in a wheelchair and a blizzard was approaching.

She wouldn’t allow “just a bunch of men” to control the meeting, Obama said. When Height’s attendance became impossible because cars could not reach her snow-choked driveway, he said, she still sent a message with her ideas.

Noting Height’s trademark attire, Obama said, “we loved those hats she wore like a crown. Regal.”

He cited her role in desegregating the YWCA and in leading the National Council of Negro Women with “vision and energy, vision and class.” He said her name should be associated with great leaders such as King and W.E.B. DuBois.

“She too deserves a place in our history books,” Obama said. “She too deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.”

He urged Americans to honor Height’s memory by serving their country and making it better. “We can all be drum majors for a righteous cause,” the president said.

Others were spoke at the service included poet and author Maya Angelou and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Opera singer Denyce Graves performed for the audience, which included First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.


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Remembering Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Written by Valerie Jarrett

Dr. Dorothy Height with Oprah

Dr. Dorothy I. Height was grace personified. She displayed a quiet strength. She vigorously defended the Constitution and fought for equal rights, women’s rights, and human rights for citizens of our country and for people the world over.

Today we said our final goodbyes to this extraordinary woman, and the President of the United States paid tribute to her during the final service. It is more than fitting that this should be the case.

Even in what would be the final year of her life, Dr. Height pressed the National Council of Negro Women to stay in the fight for health care, to make sure that working families had the support they needed to survive during these challenging economic times, and to continue inspiring young girls and women to reach their highest aspirations. Dr. Height visited the White House 21 times since President Obama’s Inauguration. Indeed, when invited to the White House in February to meet with the President and a group of Civil Rights leaders, only the worst blizzard in Washington in 100 years could keep her away.

On another occasion, Dr. Height joined us on Martin Luther King Day when a group of African American seniors and young children met with the President and Mrs. Obama for a moment of reflection on the road traveled by African Americans in our country. She told us of the first time she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager and the promise he conveyed even then. Later the group joined the President in the Oval Office to review an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation hung that very day.

During Women’s History Month this year, President Obama recognized Dr. Height for her life’s work by including her in the proclamation declaring the annual celebration of the contributions women have made in shaping our democracy. She joined us at the White House for what would be one of her final visits to honor women from all walks of life, many of whom had been inspired by her noble acts.

I believe Dr. Height had what Dr. King called “long life and longevity” because she was selfless in her service and lived to uplift her neighbor, whether they lived next door or half way around the world. In one of her final interviews just over a month ago, Dr. Height was asked what advice she would offer to teenage girls trying to find their way. She offered a very basic yet profound charge: find a purpose.

Dr. Height’s purpose was to open doors that had been closed for far too long. Upon reflection on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 when she was well into her nineties, and when many of us would have thought a good rest was long overdue, Dr. Height said, “I felt pleased and proud, but also challenged to see what more I could do.”

In her honor, we all should be willing to challenge ourselves to see what more we can do every single day.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President.

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Special 44-D Tribute ~ Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Founding Matriarch of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 98
“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them”

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Founding Matriarch of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 98

Posted by: BuellBoy and Audiegrl

Washington Post/Bart Barnes~Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 98, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement whose crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades, died early Tuesday morning of natural causes, a spokesperson for the National Council of Negro Women said.

Ms. Height was among the coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s.

She died at 3:41 a.m. at Howard University Hospital, a spokesman there said.

Ms. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, relinquishing the title in 1997. The 4 million-member advocacy group consists of 34 national and 250 community-based organizations. It was founded in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune, who was one of Ms. Height’s mentors.

As a civil rights activist, Ms. Height participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930s. In the 1940s, she lobbied first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes. And in the 1950s, she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues. In 1994, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

In the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960s, Ms. Height helped orchestrate strategy with movement leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and John Lewis, who later served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia.

Ms. Height was arguably the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time.

In this Aug. 28, 1963 photo, Dorothy Height, right, listens as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gestures during his I Have a Dream speech as he addresses thousands of civil rights supporters gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In August 1963, Ms. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. But she would say later that she was disappointed that no one advocating women’s rights spoke that day at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Less than a month later, at King’s request, she went to Birmingham, Ala., to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.

“At every major effort for social progressive change, Dorothy Height has been there,” Lewis said in 1997 when Ms. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women.

Early Champion for Women’s Rights

As a champion of social justice, Ms. Height was best known during the early years of her career for her struggles to overcome racial prejudice.

Dr. Height watches President John F. Kennedy sign the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 in a ceremony at the White House. The bill was aimed at assuring women of paychecks equal to those of men doing the same work.

She was also energetic in her efforts to overcome gender bias, and much of that work predated the women’s rights movement. When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, Ms. Height was among those invited to the White House to witness the ceremony. She returned to the White House in 1998 for a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of that legislation to hear Clinton urge passage of additional laws aimed at equalizing pay for men and women.

“Dorothy Height deserves credit for helping black women understand that you had to be feminist at the same time you were African . . . that you had to play more than one role in the empowerment of black people,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) once said.

As president of the National Council of Negro Women, Ms. Height was instrumental in organizing and sponsoring programs that emphasized self-help and self-reliance.

In 2003 President Bush presented Dr. Dorothy Height with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. Dr. Height is recognized as one of the preeminent social and civil rights activists of the 20th century. Mayor Anthony Williams attended the ceremony. Senator Hillary Clinton, former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, Senator Carl Levin and Representative Diane Watson were also present.

Those included nutrition, child care, housing and career counseling. In response to a public TV program, “The Vanishing Black Family,” Ms. Height helped create and organize the Black Family Reunion Celebration, which has been held on the Mall and in cities across the country annually since 1985. The gatherings are intended to honor the traditions, strength and history of African American families while seeking solutions to such social problems as teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

“The reunion is as important today as some of our marches were in the past,” Ms. Height said in 1992.

In 1995, Ms. Height was among the few women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall, which was led by Louis Farrakhan, the chief minister of the Nation of Islam. “I am here because you are here,” she declared. Two years later, at 85, she sat at the podium all day, in the whipping wind and chill rain, at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.

Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir by Dr. Dorothy I. Height“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them,” said former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman, a close friend who has been running day-to-day operations at the National Council.

Herman called Ms. Height “a national treasure who lived life abundantly. She will be greatly missed, not only by those of us who knew her well, but by the countless beneficiaries of her enduring legacy.”

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Dorothy I. Height Congressional Medal

President George W. Bush presented the congressional gold medal to Dr. Dorothy I. Height in 2003. The medal honored her for a lifetime of work helping people exercise their civil rights. She was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1958 until she retired in 1998. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders throughout the 1960s. She also received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan in 1989 and the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The congressional gold medal was awarded to Dr. Height in recognition of “her many contributions to the Nation.” The medal is inscribed with her words: “We African-American women seldom do just what we want to do, but always do what we have to do. I am grateful to have been in a time and place where I could be a part of what was needed.”

The Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 1912 - 2010, RIP

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle joined the rest of the nation in mourning Dr. Dorothy Height:

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dorothy Height – the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to so many Americans. Ever since she was denied entrance to college because the incoming class had already met its quota of two African American women, Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality. She led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement – witnessing every march and milestone along the way. And even in the final weeks of her life – a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest – Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background and faith. Michelle and I offer our condolences to all those who knew and loved Dr. Height – and all those whose lives she touched.~President Barack Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Dr. Dorothy Height following her remarks on health care legislation at the White House complex September 18, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)


President Barack Obama kisses Dr. Dorothy Height during a meeting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. President Obama met with a group of African American seniors and their grandchildren on the legacy of the civil rights movement January 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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The 2008 video above, is one of a series of videos of civil rights leaders discussing the importance of Brown v. Board of Education and its impact on the country, focusing on the progress America has made, and the challenges we still face to truly realize the dream of Brown by providing a quality education for all.

For more information, visit RealizeTheDream.org

Watch never-before-seen video of President Obama and “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height, during a January intergenerational reflection on the civil rights movement at the White House. She recounts here her memories of meeting one 15 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.

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Wednesdays in Misssissippi~a documentary film

In the summer of 1964 a quiet revolution began in Mississippi when a group of Black and White women reached across the chasm of race, class, geography, and religion to end segregation in America. This quiet revolution was called “Wednesdays in Mississippi.” The story of these brave women has never been told. It is a story of courage, danger, and transformation. The one hour documentary film WEDNESDAYS IN MISSISSIPPI will finally tell their story.

The only civil rights project run by a national women’s organization, “Wednesdays in Mississippi” (WIMS) was the brainchild of National Council of Negro Women President, Dorothy Height and her close friend, Polly Cowan. Their plan brought Black and White women from Northern cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago into Mississippi in 1964 during Freedom Summer.

Each week, both interracial and interfaith teams of women known as “Wednesdays Women” traveled to Mississippi on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, the women brought supplies and much needed support to small rural communities. There, local Black citizens and young civil rights workers from the North faced daily violence and constant harassment as they worked side by side to end legalized segregation. The women experienced first hand the devastating results of racial injustice, but also witnessed the hope and promise of change.

However, it was on Thursdays that the quiet revolution took root. This was when the “Wednesdays Women” put on their white gloves and pearls and secretly met with Black and White Mississippi women. In living rooms over tea and cookies the Southern women openly discussed their fears and suspicions about the civil rights movement. Many, for the first time, voiced their support for change. At that time in Mississippi, mixing with outsiders had dire consequences. Yet the women came, they listened and their hearts and minds began to open. Their clandestine meetings became the catalyst for great change.

In 1965, the Southern women invited the Northern women back to Mississippi. This groundbreaking alliance between Black and White women from the North and South continued until 1967. Working together, the women started economic, health and educational programs, including the well known Fannie Lou Hamer Daycare center, which continues to thrive today.

The film, WEDNESDAYS IN MISSISSIPPI will show how the lives of these women were enriched and transformed by doing what Dorothy Height called, “women’s work…the work of making connections and building community.” At last, the legacy of these courageous women will be shared.

Film information courtesy of Wednesdays in Mississippi

Learn more about the film, how you can show your support it, and about the filmmakers.

Learn more about Wednesdays in Mississippi: Civil Rights as Women’s Work: An Exhibit Website


President Obama, First Lady Michelle and Mourners Attend Dr. Dorothy I. Height Funeral on April 29, 2010

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President Obama on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy

Today, to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service and honor Dr. King’s life and legacy, President and Mrs. Obama, and 10 Cabinet Secretaries and senior Administration officials participated in community service projects in Washington, DC. Led by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the King Center, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is an opportunity for all Americans to come together to help meet the needs of their communities and make an ongoing commitment to service throughout the year. This year, the King Day of Service includes thousands of projects – from delivering meals and refurbishing schools to reading to children, promoting nonviolence and more – spread across all 50 states.

President Barack Obama gets a hug from Victoria Kennedy at a campaign stop for Democratic senate candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley at Northeastern University in Boston, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Barack Obama gets a hug from Victoria Kennedy at a campaign stop for Democratic senate candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley at Northeastern University in Boston, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Dr. King dedicated his life to advancing social justice and equal opportunity for all,” President Obama said. “But more than forty years after his death, there is still much work left to be done. Through service, we honor his legacy by helping our neighbors, strengthening our communities and meeting the challenges we face together. I encourage all Americans to not only continue Dr. King’s work through service today, but to make service a part of your lives every day.”

The President, First Lady and their family visited So Others Might Eat, an organization dedicated to helping people get off the streets and empowering them to make lasting changes in their lives. The First Family served food to homeless and hungry men, women and children.

Later at the White House, Obama will host a conversation with a small group of African American seniors and their grandchildren on the legacy of the civil rights movement.

In the evening, the president and Mrs. Obama plan to attend the “Let Freedom Ring” concert at the Kennedy Center. The concert features nationally renowned artists and choir members from Washington area churches.

The President speaks about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of persistence in achieving broader goals in remarks at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. January 17, 2010.

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President Obama speaks after an event where members of different generations reflected on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Common Ground: Representative John Lewis and Elwin Wilson

posted by GeoT


Two men come together in the spirit of forgiveness and understanding

In May 1961, John Lewis was a 21-year-old seminary student and member of the Freedom Riders. That was the month that Lewis was beaten for attempting to enter the waiting area of a bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina marked “Whites Only.” Elwin Wilson was a part of the mob that attacked Representative Lewis.

Forty-eight years later, in January 2009, the two men met again in Lewis’s congressional office. Elwin Wilson apologized to Rep. Lewis and expressed remorse for his long held hatred. Rep. Lewis accepted the apology and offered his forgiveness without hesitation.

The two men hope that their reconciliation will inspire others who took part in Civil Rights Era violence to come forward, and work to heal the wounds of racism in the United States.

John Lewis has been the U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He grew up on his family’s farm in Alabama and attended segregated public schools. Rep. Lewis was a nationally recognized leader of the Civil Rights Movement and has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements in the United States. Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis has remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.

Elwin Hope Wilson has lived in Rock Hill, South Carolina for most of his life. He served in the U.S. Air Force, and worked as a welder and heavy equipment operator for many years. Wilson, who took part in KKK activities, now speaks out about racial bigotry and intolerance.

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