Dorothy Height Quotes

Dorothy Height (1912 - 2010)

Dorothy Height, 1950
Dorothy Height, 1950. Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Dorothy Height, a key figure in the American civil rights movement, worked for many years for the YWCA, and also headed the National Council of Negro Women for more than 50 years.

Selected Dorothy Height Quotations

• If you worry about who is going to get credit, you don't get much work done.

• Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition, he or she has overcome to reach his goals.

• I was inspired by Mary McLeod Bethune, not only to be concerned but to use whatever talent I had to be of some service in the community.

• As I reflect on the hope and challenges facing women in the 21st century, I am also reminded of the protracted struggles of African-American women who joined together as SISTERS in 1935 in response to Mrs. Bethune's call. It was an opportunity to deal creatively with the fact that Black women stood outside of America's mainstream of opportunity, influence, and power.

• I want to be remembered as someone who used herself and anything she could touch to work for justice and freedom.... I want to be remembered as one who tried.

• A Negro woman has the same kind of problems as other women, but she can't take the same things for granted.

• As more women enter public life, I see developing a more humane society. The growth and development of children no longer will depend solely upon the status of their parents. Once again, the community as the extended family will rekindle its caring and nurturing. Though children cannot vote, their interests will be placed high on the political agenda. For they are indeed the future.

1989, about using the term "black" or "African-American": As we move ahead into the 21st century and look at a unified way of fully identifying with our heritage, our present, and our future, our use of African-American is not a matter of putting down one to pick up the other. It is a recognition that we've always been African and American, but we are now going to address ourselves in those terms and make a unified effort to identify with our African brothers and sisters and with our own heritage. African-American has the potential of helping us to rally. But unless we identify with the full meaning, the term won't make a difference. It becomes merely a label.

When we started using the term 'Black,' it was more than a color. It came at a time when our young people in marches and sit-ins made the cry 'Black Power.' It represented the Black experience in the United States and the Black experience of those throughout the world who were oppressed. We are at a different point now. The struggle continues, but it's more subtle. Therefore, we need, in the strongest ways we can, to show our unity as a people and not just as a people of color.

• It was not easy for those of us who had become symbols of the struggle for equality to see our children raising their fists in defiant contradiction of all we had fought for.

• No one will do for you what you need to do for yourself. We cannot afford to be separate.

• We have to see that all of us are in the same boat.

• But we're all in the same boat now, and we've got to learn to work together.

• We are not a problem people; we are a people with problems. We have historic strengths; we have survived because of family.

• We have to improve life, not just for those who have the most skills and those who know how to manipulate the system. But also for and with those who often have so much to give but never get the opportunity.

• Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.

• We've got to work to save our children and do it with full respect for the fact that if we do not, no one else is going to do it.

• There is no contradiction between effective law enforcement and respect for civil and human rights. Dr. King did not stir us to move for our civil rights to have them taken away in these kinds of fashions.

• The Black family of the future will foster our liberation, enhance our self-esteem, and shape our ideas and goals.

• I believe we hold in our hands the power once again to shape not only our own but the nation's future -- a future that is based on developing an agenda that radically challenges limitations in our economic development, educational achievement, and political empowerment. Undoubtedly, African-Americans will have an integral role to play, although our path ahead will continue to be complex and difficult.

• As we move forward, let us also look back. So long as we remember those who died for our right to vote and those like John H. Johnson who built empires where there were none, we will walk into the future with unity and strength.

More About Dorothy Height

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Dorothy Height Quotes." About Women's History. URL:

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Dorothy Height Quotes." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). Dorothy Height Quotes. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Dorothy Height Quotes." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).