Remembering Dorothy Cotton, 1930–2018


  • Lauren Siegel



Civil rights pioneer Dorothy Foreman Cotton passed away on June 10, 2018, in Ithaca, New York, at the age of eighty-eight. On August 11, 2018, a Saturday afternoon, around seven hundred community members, friends, and local and national leaders gathered at Cornell University’s Bailey Hall to celebrate her life. Cotton was the highest-ranking woman in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) throughout the 1960s. She devoted her life to liberation and social justice. Remembered by many as an iconic feminist and grassroots innovator, she led an extraordinary life that undoubtedly transformed the lives of African Americans fighting for full citizenship and justice. Cotton was critical in opposing economic and social regimes of power, but she also ushered in a new sense of individual and collective subjectivity through political participation and mobilization in southern Black communities. Throughout her life, she reminded ordinary people of their vast power to effect change and transform society.