From Publishers Weekly
Civil rights activist and leader Height looks back on seven decades of crucial work-as speaker, social worker, protestor; as a member of the national staff of the YWCA from 1944-1977 and president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957-1998-in this thorough but impersonal memoir. Height reports Molotov cocktails and secret civil rights meetings in back rooms, along with more quotidian aspects of racism-being invited by mistake to rush a white sorority, for example-with the same smooth tone. Although the changes Height helped bring about were dramatic, her manner is not. To adverse events, she was creative rather than reactive: her response to a TV program called "The Vanishing Black Family," for example, was to organize the Black Family Reunion celebrations. Of particular interest is her account of her close relationship with Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt, and her restoring to the history of the Civil Rights Movement the important role played by the little-known Wednesdays in Mississippi project, in which "biracial, interfaith teams of distinguished women" held weekly meetings that established "a ministry of presence." Dignity, discretion and a certain delicacy-the very elements that made her such an effective agent for social change-make her memoir a somewhat prosaic book. It chronicles days of committees, conferences and conventions, of persistent pushing for change while working within existing structures. It is a public account of public activities, an autobiographical record with none of the intimacy of the memoir. Its value for historians of the civil rights era and of black women's organizations is central, but although Height was always there, she doesn't take the reader with her. 8 page b&w photo insert not seen by PW.
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Height has devoted her life to the struggle for civil rights. Now 91 years old and still serving as chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, Height walks us step-by-step through a remarkable lifetime of witnessing every significant event in the fight for racial equality. Most apparent is Height's focus on and tremendous devotion to furthering the progress of African American women. Amusingly, Height's matter-of-fact tone recounting her experiences belies the magnitude of their historical significance. Spanning more than 70 years, Height's memoir reads like a primer on the trajectory of the civil rights movement. From facing threats of physical harm in the integration-resistant South to her work with Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton, Dr. Height remains proud yet grounded about her accomplishments and those of her colleagues. What is most striking about this book is Height's recurring insistence (and proof!) that a sincere commitment to excellence is the tool that can afford remarkable opportunities to anyone. Terry GloverCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved