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Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir Hardcover – June 17, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 Glover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 322 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481575
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,568,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Hare on August 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Dorothy Height carries the strength of granite and a backbone resolute with meaningful purpose. Growing up in suburban Pittsburgh, Height, now 91 and still busily at work, saw discrimination and never flinched, determined to meet adversity with an agile brain, a strong body, and an indomitable will.
As a high school girl she won an impromptu speech competition at the county level, then was forced to confront the ugly tentacles of segregation when she sought to find a place to stay as she competed in the finals in the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg. She learned that she was the only African-American in the competition. When she sought a drink of water prior to her speech, it was the only other person of color in the building, an African-American janitor, who escorted her to the drinking fountain. Height won the competition by tying her speech theme, the Kellogg-Briand Peace Treaty, to efforts of the black race to overcome adversity. She explained to an enthralled audience that, just as peace can only be accomplished through purposeful unity, such is also the case with respect to the races. Height won that competition.
After achieving straight A's at New York University, Height went to work for the YWCA in Manhattan. This was the beginning of a stellar career that took her to the pinnacle of African-American leadership in the women's movement, and ultimately led to a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Citizenship Award conferred on her by President Ronald Reagan in 1989. Height refers to two strong women of principle and achievement who served as role model beacons for the bright and enterprising young woman. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was someone she would admire and come to know well.
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Format: Paperback
Open Wide The Freedom Gates: A Memoir

This is certainly the most exciting book that I use with my university students!

Without fail Ms. Dorothy Irene Height's life story energizes them to become social activists on the campus.

Her courage, determination, and positive attitude in the face racism and discrimination of many types emboldens my students to confront and uproot the same on the campus.

My students consider Ms. Height a "TRUE AMERICAN HERO." She is a role model, mentor, and "friend" to them.

I highly and unreservedly recommend this book to every person living and breathing. Undoubtedly, as you read her story, you will realize that she has done much to secure the freedom and liberty of people all around the world!

Yolanda Lehman
Adjunct Professor
St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud, MN
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Format: Hardcover
If you'd like to gain an appreciation for a female perspective of the civil rights movement, this is a book for you. I was born in 1957 and came of age during a time when the equal rights struggle for all Americans came to the fore---people of color, gays & lesbians, female--were trying to gain a voice in society. Ms. Height speaks plainly of her involvement in projects that brought about fundamental changes in society. She relates her stories about change as it really happens: one person at a time, one family at a time, one small community at a time. Read and learn !
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There were so many important activists during the time of MLK and Rosa Parks. If you love history, want to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement or just like reading about powerful, strong women, this is must read.
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I chose to read this book in honor of women's history month and it truly inspired and educated me. Ms. Height took me down history lane in this book about her involvement in various organizations. Some of the organizations she mentioned in the book I am ashamed to say I never even heard of. The writing style of the book kept me reading past midnight. After reading this book, I can truly say I know more about Ms. Height as a woman and the various organizations she was involved in.
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Format: Paperback
Open Wide the Freedom Gates is Dorothy Height's memoir and chronicles her involvement in the struggle for Civil Rights for African Americans and, more specifically, African American women. This is a history that was unknown to me prior to reading this fascinating book. Height takes us from her upbringing in the church in her hometown in suburban Pittsburgh to her working of the power structure in Washington DC. She worked with the White House from the 1950s until her death in 2010. She was on the ground during Freedom Summer in Mississippi and was at Martin Luther King Jr. side during the March on Washington.

The only problem I had with this book was that Ms Height never discussed those times when she faced failure. Whenever failure loomed, she seemed to overcome it and rise to the occasion. This made me wonder just how accurate her account is. Most people who I have encountered have experienced failure in some parts of their lives.

Overall though, this is a good book in that it introduces the reader to a side of history that is too often overlooked.
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Reminds you why you have rights you do. Although the struggle and oppression is not yet over, this book is a glimpse of how the past has influenced current times - both for the better and for the worse.
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