US Coins

This Day in History: March 24

Civil Rights pioneer Dorothy Height was born March 24, 1912. She received her congressional gold medal on her 92nd birthday, in 2004.

Medal images courtesy of the United States Mint.

Civil Rights activist Dorothy Height was born March 24, 1912. 

Congress bestowed Height with a congressional gold medal in 2003, which was presented by President George W. Bush in 2004.

The medal in effect commemorates African American history and the women’s rights movement in America.

The U.S. Mint continues to offer bronze duplicates of the medal in 1.5- and 3-inch sizes.

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Heights devoted her life to grassroots organizations created to fight racism, sexism, inequality, and poverty.

In the 1960s, she stood on the front line in the battle for civil rights for African Americans and equal rights for women.

The medal’s obverse was designed by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donna Weaver. The obverse depicts a portrait of Height in one of her signature hats. DOROTHY I. HEIGHT is inscribed under the portrait, and the inscription ACT OF CONGRESS 2003 is located to the right of her image.

The reverse was designed by Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti. The reverse features the National Council of Negro Women’s building in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Capitol in the background. The reverse also includes Height’s quote “We African American Women seldom do just what we want to do, but always what we have to do. I am grateful to have been in a time and place where I could be a part of what was needed.”

President Bush presented the gold medal to Height on her 92nd birthday, in a ceremony in the United States Capitol Rotunda.

Beginning in 1958, Height led the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded in 1937 by her mentor and friend, Mary McLeod Bethune. The NCNW promotes black family values and sponsors the annual Black Family Reunion held each September on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

During the ceremony, President Bush said he was recognizing an American hero with a medal.

Bush said: “Since the American Revolution, Congress has awarded gold medals to the heroes of our country. And today, we recognize a citizen who has helped to extend the promise of our founding to millions. We recognize a hero.”

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