United Methodist civil rights advocate, Dorothy Height stamp debuts Feb. 1

us-postal-service-2017-stamp-dorothy-height-200x314It’s a physically small form of recognition, but a hugely selective one. Not many people get their face on a U.S. Postal Service stamp.

Dorothy Height, a United Methodist who loomed large in civil rights and women’s rights history, will soon join that group. A commemorative “forever” stamp honoring her goes on sale Feb. 1.

The image, already shared by the Postal Service, shows Height near the end of her long life, dressed to the nines in lavender, her favorite color. She’s wearing one of her trademark broad-rim hats.

Derry Noyes designed the stamp, choosing artist Thomas Blackshear II to do the gouache and acrylics on board portrait.
In Noyes’ view, Blackshear came through in a big way.

“We know Dorothy Height as a strong leader in civil rights and women’s rights,” she said. “But what people might not know about her is what Thomas captured, her warmth and grace late into life.”

Height, who died in 2010 at age 98, held key positions with both the YWCA and the National Council of Negro Women. She led the latter for more than 40 years.

A longtime member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in New York, Height helped organize the National Council of Churches women’s caucus. She also founded the Black Family Reunion Celebration.

Her work included fighting segregation in the 1950s and helping black citizens register to vote in the South in the 1960s. Through the years, she focused on addressing poverty, and on expanding opportunity for women and strengthening families.

She was on the stage when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Four decades later, she was still traveling widely as a social justice and human rights advocate. Near the beginning of her career, she helped Eleanor Roosevelt organize the 1938 World Youth Congress.

Height, who said she never expected to live long enough to see an African-American elected president, was a special guest at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

Though not as well-known as King and other civil rights leaders, Height was much honored as an older woman, including with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Soon after her death, Congress passed a bill, signed into law by President Obama, naming a Washington, D.C., post office after her.