MICHEL MARTIN, host:
And, finally today, another in our series of Black History Month tributes. Every day through this month of February, we've invited members of the TELL ME MORE staff, some of our guests, and our NPR colleagues to share stories about the figure or event from black history that they most admire.
Today, a civil rights legend, and many would say a diva.
ALLISON KEYES: I'm Allison Keyes, a National Desk reporter here at NPR and occasional guest host of TELL ME MORE. And I think one of the most important figures in black history is Dorothy Height. Wherever she went a train of admirers followed her as they would a queen. Height spent almost all of her 98 years fighting for the empowerment of women and African-Americans. And she was at the nucleus of the meetings which planned the direction of the civil rights movement at a time when men were the public face of that battle.
This tiny dynamo, known for her always impeccable attire and stylish to pose, was already fighting against lynching when she was just in her 20s. Height spent more than 30 years with the YWCA, and nearly 40 years with the National Council of Negro Women. She was also national president of the African-American sorority Delta Sigma Theta Incorporated, from 1947 to 1957.
In 2008, the year the first African-American was elected president of the United States, Height told NPR that there was still unfinished business in civil rights.
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Dr. DOROTHY HEIGHT (President Emerita, National Council of Negro Women): We don't need the marches that we had in the past. But we need more consideration in looking at the boardroom tables and at the policies that are going on, looking at what's happening in industry, what's happening in terms of employment opportunities, housing and the like.
KEYES: Height had the ear of U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama and she wanted the young people she worked with so passionately throughout her career to follow in her footsteps and serve others.
MARTIN: That was my colleague Allison Keyes, a familiar voice to this program, as she fills in for me from time to time, paying tribute to civil rights leader Dorothy Height.
To browse the full series of TELL ME MORE Black History Month essays, please log on to npr.org and in the search field, type black history heroes.
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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. And remember, to tell us more, you can always go to npr.org and find us under the Programs tab. You can also follow us on Twitter; just look for TELL ME MORE/NPR.
I'm Michel Martin, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.
Let's talk more tomorrow.