A photo of the late civil rights leader Dorothy Height, shot by District photographer Lateef Mangum, has now become part of America’s history.
The photograph joins a growing number of “Forever” stamps being issued by the United States Postal Service as the post office honors Black History Month with its Black Heritage U.S. postage stamps series.
“[The Postal Service] called me and asked me to submit pictures of Dorothy Height who I had photographed many times before and with whom I had even taken a picture,” said Mangum, who has served for more than 20 years as the personal photographer for several District mayors including Adrian Fenty, Marion Barry and Muriel Bowser.
“I knew of her history and how dedicated she was to the civil rights movement, so I submitted a picture that I took when she was 97 and what’s amazing is that she looked so great,” Mangum said.
The hardest part of the journey for the D.C.-based photographer: silence. The Postal Service mandated that Mangum keep quiet for about a year until last November when he first saw the finished product.
“When I saw the image, I was pleasantly surprised and Dorothy Height looked terrific,” he said.
The 40th stamp in the series honors Height, a tireless activist, who dedicated her life to fighting for racial and gender equality.
She became one of the most influential civil and women’s rights leaders of the 20th century.
In 1963, the Height-led National Council of Negro Women joined the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership and she lent her talents and creativity as one of the architects of the August 1963 March on Washington.
Height has been credited with initiating the drive to include the voices of youth during the March including one up-and-coming leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis. She further insisted that there be no time limits for Dr. King’s speech.
Gender equality also served as a priority for Height who fought for the rights of women, particularly women of color.
President John F. Kennedy named her to his Commission on the Status of Women, then chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. Height also attended the 1963 White House ceremony where Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act.
In 1971, she helped form the National Women’s Political Caucus.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A decade later, President George W. Bush presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2009, she joined Barack Obama as a special guest during his inauguration ceremony during which he became the nation’s 44th president.
“I’m happy and blessed that this photograph actually became a stamp and my family is very happy,” Mangum said.