Civil rights leader Dr. Dorothy I. Height, who was the chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, passed away on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.
A funeral service honoring her life and legacy was held on April 29, 2010.
Dr. Camille O. Cosby was one of three people asked to eulogize Dr. Height at the National Cathedral funeral service, along with President Obama.
Below is video from the funeral service. Dr. Cosby’s eulogy starts at the 26:31 mark and finishes at the 31:28 mark.
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The text from Dr. Cosby’s eulogy is included below.
Dorothy Irene Height
Dorothy Irene Height spent her life redefining “woman”. Even as a teenager, she played basketball in her High School, long before girls or women’s competitive sports were “acceptable”.
From the beginning of her youth and throughout her life, Dr. Height was uncondoning about the indignities of fools, instead of the more tolerable female behavior to endure quietly.
Of course, we know about Dr. Height’s deserving numerous awards. I was fortunate to watch her receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; give ever so many speeches; open the fabulous and historic National Council of Negro Women’s building on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1995…. But she placed equal importance on enabling people to be respected, legally, worldwide. Indeed, Dr. Height gave her time and support to those in need, no matter how she was feeling…. Now that is a more familiar definition of “woman”.
However, many times, rightfulness was not applied to her. But her clear determination and strong positive self-perception did not allow several men, who acted out egregious sexist behaviors, to push her to the background …. like they had successfully done and had been permitted to do to too many female civil rights activists in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Some public or prosperous people are not confident. They might be lacking in that deep knowing and feeling of self-value which, of course, for anyone, can be ultimately self destructive and hurtful to others. Dr. Height exuded self-value…. And she was definitely firm and assertive…. without losing “woman”. She searched for, in her words, “the common ground” to solve problems. And yes, she dressed in beautiful colors with her trademark hats…. No matter where she was.
She had an interesting way of releasing a person from her personal space…for example, she once told someone “You will not be moving into the future with me”.
And, yes, she could laugh. I have an indelible memory of her laughter, with rivers of tears on her face, as she watched my friend, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, dunk me, repeatedly, in a swimming pool…. And my husband’s comedic comments about her from the stage…. Oh, how those words made her laugh.
I loved her; my husband and I loved her. We sent flowers to her, quite often. I was told they made her smile…. Which is what we wanted to accomplish…. To surround her with nature’s beauties while she was immersed in fighting against our nation’s evil isms: racism, sexism, classism and ageism.
And speaking of ageism, when she became an elder, Dr. Height again refused to be pushed into the background, just as she had done in the 1950’s and 60’s, in her counteraction to sexism. Dr. Height showed us that our lives are always worthy and that a long life must be acknowledged and honored…. And that our brains can turn off at any age.
At age 92, she said to me that she has never stopped learning. I shall always hold on to that and all that she has taught me.
Dr. Camille O. Cosby
April 29, 2010