Norton's Black History Month Celebration Unveils Dorothy Height Post Office

Feb 22, 2011
Press Release

 

Norton's Black History Month Celebration Unveils Dorothy Height Post Office and Celebrates D.C.'s Congressional Protest in the Dorothy Height Tradition

February 22, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC -- Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Mayor Vincent Gray today celebrated Black History Month with the renaming of D.C.'s Historic Post Office at 2 Massachusetts Ave NE in honor of the late Dr. Dorothy I. Height.  Norton, whose bill to rename the post office was signed by President Obama at an Oval Office ceremony in December, was also joined by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, civil rights leaders, family members of Dr. Height, and a room full of residents from the city and region.  Norton noted that the building is not only a post office but also the home of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and said, "It is especially fitting that the name of an icon for social justice should adorn one of Washington's most iconic buildings."

Norton called Dr. Height a mentor of millions and noted her leadership on D.C. voting rights and equality for D.C. residents.  "District residents, who are now in the midst of protesting undemocratic actions in Congress that trample on the District's right to self-government, are acting in the Dorothy Height tradition of standing up against unjust action," Norton said.

See new building name here.  

The Congresswoman's complete remarks follow.

 

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Remarks of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at the Unveiling of the Dr. Dorothy I. Height Post Office

It takes too long to get most bills through the House and Senate, but H.R. 6118, "To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, in Washington, D.C., as the ‘Dorothy I. Height Post Office,'" passed both houses in record time.  My colleagues in the House and Senate may argue about closing the government down or raising the debt limit, but both sides of the aisle knew better than to delay a bill to name a federal building in Washington, DC for Dr. Dorothy I. Height. 

Dorothy lived to receive every high honor her country can give.  However, today's honor is different from her Congressional Gold Medal or her Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Today's commemoration is a visible honor for all to see, as Dr. Height becomes the first African American woman whose name graces a federal building in the nation's capital.  This extraordinary building is not simply any post office.  This historic building is a part of the Smithsonian and also houses the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the repository of the postal history of our country visited by millions of Americans every year.  It is especially fitting that the name of an icon for social justice should adorn one of Washington's most iconic buildings. 

Dorothy Height was my friend and a mentor, but many in this room and millions of Americans also claim her as a mentor.  They identified with the straight line she walked for human rights.  She was a mentor to millions because she accommodated no division in the human family.  For Dorothy, the word human rights meant what it said, not the rights for some but not for the newest group seeking rights.  She made herself a bridge between the civil rights and the women's rights movement, for example.  As women became inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and began their movement, Dorothy Height led by example to allay the confusion among some African-Americans about the new movement.  Black women, in particular, quickly understood that if they had two strikes against them, it made no sense to allow either to remain.

How fortunate our country is that Dr. Height lived the longest and most productive life as a leader to help our country throw off so much injustice for so many Americans.  Dorothy was intent on putting every bit of her long life to good use.  She insisted on a life of activism.  Shortly before her death at 98, she entered Howard University Hospital under protest because of pending speaking engagements.

Yet, for all of her national and international acclaim, Dorothy Height, a national human rights leader, made herself local too, "I'm your constituent now, Eleanor," she would tell me, leaving me with the only appropriate reply that I, of course, had always been her constituent in the movements she led.  Dorothy took equal rights for the District of Columbia seriously and often spoke about the necessity for voting rights and for equal treatment for the people of the District.  District residents, who are now in the midst of protesting undemocratic actions in Congress that trample on the District's right to self-government, are acting in the Dorothy Height tradition of standing up against unjust action.

Dorothy's devotion to the District's cause and to the cause of equality everywhere gave our city a natural way to commemorate Black History Month this year.  We who live in the District of Columbia were fortunate to live with the historic presence of Dorothy Height, as friendly as she was dignified.  This month, the residents of this city are proud to join the nation in commemorating the naming one of our most historic places for one of America's most historic women, Dr. Dorothy I. Height.