The world lost two Civil Rights icons within days of each other.

Written by admin   // April 22, 2010   // 0 Comments

Benjamin Hooks former leader of the NAACP speaks to Milwaukee in crowd 1982 (photo by Bill Tennessen)

Benjamin Hooks, known for his fiery oratorical skills, who led the NAACP through the post-Civil Rights era, died Thursday, April 15. He was 85.

Dorothy Height, the head of the National Council of Negro Women, known for her hats and grace and determination, died Tuesday. She was 98.

Hooks was laid to rest Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn., where he died.

Hooks had been the executive director of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 16 years and spoke about minority rights during a conservative political era.

A spokesperson for the N.A.C.C.P., said that Hooks died due to a long illness. Ulysses Jones, state rep. and a member of the church, where Hooks was serving as a pastor, said that Hooks passed away at his home in Memphis.

Hooks served as the executive director of N.A.C.C.P from 1977 to 1992 and it was under his tenure that the organization grew in stature. After his inclusion in the organization he said in an interview, “Black Americans are not defeated.”

Hooks labels himself as a “poor little ol’ country preacher’ but his long list of accomplishments speak for themselves. He oversaw the organization’s positions on assenting action, foreign relations with repressive governments and ever –changing domestic issues.

During his stay, Hooks also developed a bitter relationship with chairwoman Margaret Bush Wilson who later also accused Hooks of financial mismanagement. On the issue majority of the board directors backed Hooks and as a result he was never sacked.

“A hero, an icon, and a Memphis legend. He will be missed,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton tweeted on the day of Hook’s death.

Hooks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom-the highest civilian award in 2007 by President George W. Bush.

Civil Rights "God Mother" Dororthy Height led the National Counsil for Negro Women for 40 years

Height, a pioneering voice of the civil rights movement whose activism stretched from the New Deal to the election of President Barack Obama, marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years.

She remained active and outspoken well into her 90s and often received rousing ovations at events around Washington, where she was easily recognizable in the bright, colorful hats she almost always wore.

As a teenager, Height marched in New York’s Times Square shouting, “Stop the lynching.” After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University, she became a leader of the Harlem YWCA and the United Christian Youth Movement of North America, where she pushed to prevent lynching, desegregate the armed forces and reform the criminal justice system.

One of Height’s sayings was, “If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.” In the 1950s and 1960s, she was the leading woman helping King and other activists orchestrate the civil rights movement, often reminding the men heading not to underestimate their female counterparts.

Height dedicated most of her adult life to the National Council of Negro Women, where she first worked under her mentor, Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded the group.

Height took over in 1957 and led it until 1997, fighting for women’s rights on issues such as equal pay and education. She developed programs such as “pig banks” to help poor rural families raise their own livestock, and “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” in which black and white women from the north traveled to Mississippi to meet with their Southern counterparts in an effort to ease racial tensions and bridge differences.

Height received two of the nation’s highest honors: the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

In a statement, President Obama called her “the godmother of the civil rights movement” and a hero to Americans.

“Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality … and served as the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement — witnessing every march and milestone along the way,” Obama said.

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