Dorothy Height visits Silver Spring


Oct. 21, 2003, midnight | By Allison Elvove | 17 years, 3 months ago

Friends of Silver Spring Library sponsors local event


Dorothy Height, author of newly published Open Wide the Freedom Gates, spoke to a group of about 100 people last Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Silver Spring Library as part of the Speaker Series.

Height, 91, was interviewed by The Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, who has been at the newspaper since 1975 and continues writing his column, which started in 1983. Milloy explained he was fascinated by Height's dedication to the Civil Rights Movement.

He asked her if the hardships she had faced early on in life were worthwhile. "[I feel] especially blessed that I had so many opportunities at such an early age," she said. Height noted that a consistent theme in her life was as one door closes, another opens. "We get rising expectations, and then we get rising frustrations," said Height.

She discussed one event in particular to illustrate this idea. She applied to Barnard College after graduation from high school in 1929 at the age of 16. After traveling to the campus, she was told that the school had already met their racial quota of two African Americans and that she could apply next year. Dismayed as she was, in the end New York University accepted her, even though she had not sent an application. "One rejected me, another accepted me. Things balance out," Height said. "My experience is that one thing may beat you down, but my mother always told me, 'Dorothy, no matter what happens, hold yourself together.'" Height emphasized the importance of having a positive attitude throughout life because responding negatively to the bitterness only worsens the situation. "[If you react], you are weakening yourself in the midst of it," she said.

During Milloy's various questions, Height noted specific differences between the youth of today and the youth of her generation. "You look at yourselves as leaders for tomorrow. We looked at ourselves as leaders for today," Height said. Later in the event, Height also recognized that many "young people are going through doors and don't know how they got opened."

When Milloy had concluded the interview, he opened the discussion to the audience, who asked various questions about her involvement in different programs and about her opinion on slavery reparations. In response to the former question, she noted that she will always help those who are less fortunate. "So long as the Lord lets me live, I'll be working for equality and justice, she said. "I don't think I'll be known for being accomplished. I [merely] want to be known as someone who tried." When questioned about reparations, she was met with applause after stating, "We [African Americans] are not the problem people. We are simply people with problems."

The event concluded with Height making reference to her new memoir titled Open Wide the Freedom Gates. "Mary McLeod Bethune would always say, 'The Freedom Gates are half way open. We must pry them fully apart.'"

After the event, Height autographed copies of her book. If interested in learning more about Height's life, the book is available to read in Blair's Media center.



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Allison Elvove. Allison Elvove was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2004-2005 school year. She wrote more than 70 articles while on the staff and supervised 40 student journalists, editing articles on a daily basis. During her time as editor, Silver Chips Online won the … More »

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