“We Wanted the Voice of a Woman
to Be Heard”
Black Women and the 1963 March
Dorothy I. Height
I had been active in the Civil Rights Movement long before the 1963 March on Washington. One of the significant turning points came in 1962 when Stephen Currier called together a group of black leaders because he felt that the Taconic Foundation, which he headed, and which had been very supportive of black causes, could take a lead in trying to get other philanthropic sources to give more support. And so, he called together Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of SCLC; Whitney Young, Executive Director of the National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Roy Wilkins, Executive Director of the NAACP; James Farmer, National Director of CORE; C. Eric Lincoln, a scholar who was doing a study on the Black Muslims; Jack Greenberg, Executive Director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and myself.
The point of the gathering was to begin to see how American philanthropy could be more supportive of black organizations. At the outset, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was not there, but later, SNCC was added, with James Forman coming into the picture. The plan was that each leader would assume responsibility for chairing a group to study some area of philanthropy as it related to African Americans. Each took a field. I chose private voluntary organizations to assess their policies, governing boards, and what kind of support they gave, as well as the racial composition of the decision makers.