Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dorothy Cotton

By Caitlin Easter

“I’m tired of people saying, “And now we present her, who marched with Martin Luther King.”
Well, a lot of folk flew down there one weekend and marched, but I worked.”- Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was very similar to other women in the fact that she never got the recognition
she deserved. Even today, the name Dorothy Cotton doesn’t ring a bell in the average American’s
imagination, because beyond the fact that she was black, she was also a women. Despite this, she was a
major champion of the civil rights movement and never allowed her gender to stop her from doing what
she wanted to do. She believed in the power of speech, and encouraged others to speak the truth with
her organizations. She was a major advocate for human rights education and leadership. She spoke at
workshops and with her Institute helped people to understand and shape themselves as leaders to
advance human rights. The Dorothy Cotton Institute was founded in 2007, and works to secure human
rights for everybody through education, interactive exhibits, and movements and campaigns. The
Institute works to develop Human Rights leaders, build a community for these leaders, and promote
practices that lead to justice and healing.

According to The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ms. Dorothy Cotton was the Education Director at
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the director of The Citizenship Education Program, the
Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence Social Change,
the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION under the Carter Administration, the director of Student
Activities at Cornell University, a 2010 National Freedom Award Recipient, and the founder and
namesake of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Ms. Cotton is now being recognized as a 2019 Honoree in the
National Women’s History Alliance following the theme of: “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace &
Nonviolence.”

Before her death on June 10, 2018, she was a strong and influential advocate for violence
reduction and humanitarian issues. She was a speaker, a teacher, a facilitator, a peaceful resister, and a
woman. Her name will always be tied to Dr. Martin Luther’s because of their strong bond and joint work,
but her impact will forever be so much more than that.

More information about Ms. Cotton and her institute can be found at:

https://www.dorothycottoninstitute.org/