Dorothy Cotton
(1930 — 2018)

Dorothy Foreman Cotton
Clayborne Carson, Dir. King Research & Education Institute

As remembered by Lula Williams
June 11, 2018

Our Beloved Movement Sister, Dr. Dorothy Cotton had passed away today. Dorothy was Director of SCLC's Citizenship Education Program during the sixties and seventies at SCLC. She was there throughout Dr. M.L. King's tenure. She was one of about three women who were ever on the Executive Staff of SCLC. Dorothy has a long history of achievements with the organization. I'm so glad I had the privilege of working on her staff there in CEP. That program was so valuable and contributed to so many changes made in history. May God Strengthen and Comfort all of you during this difficult time. Let's keep each other lifted up in Prayer.


As remembered by Bruce Hartford
June 11, 2018

I remember Dorothy, Septima Clark, and Annell Ponder's work in SCLC's Citizenship Education Program. They were three of the finest organizers I ever encountered in the Freedom Movement. Sometimes I hear folk from SNCC or CORE opine that SCLC didn't do community organizing, but no one who knew those three would ever make such an assertion. And Dorothy was more than an organizer, she was a courageous leader of dangerous direct action protests in racist hell holes like St. Augustine FL and Camden/Wilcox County AL. To this day I vividly remember her beautiful voice rallying and renewing us with her rendition of "Why Was the Darkie Born" after she led defiantly led in nonviolent battle against Jim Clark's horse posse and a tear gas attack by the Alabama State Troopers.

Dorothy Cotton ¡Presente!


As remembered by Tom Houck
June 11, 2018

My mentor, my friend. Long Live Dorothy! One of a kind!


As remembered by Viola Bradley
June 11, 2018

How well I remember here and her dedication to SCLC, Dr. King and the Movement.

We bless her memory


As remembered by Elizabeth Omilami
June 11, 2018

May Grace and peace be with her family. I remember seeing her last at my mother's home talking about old times. Her history lines right up with Americas history and we can still use that model of citizenship education today.


As remembered by Georgianna Bolden
June 11, 2018

She will be joining a great host of other Veterans, including my beloved, Rev. Willie Bolden. Take care and be blessed.


As remembered by Maria Gitin
July 1, 2018

Dorothy Cotton was one of the brightest light in the freedom fight, even after her body refused to cooperate. She managed to get us to sing, laugh and shout and work very hard. I'm sharing a message originally written to me as a blurb for "This Bright Light of Ours" from which I have removed personal references. Very likely she wrote similar messages to and for many other foot soldiers. May she be long be remembered as she finally rests in well-deserved peace. Her words and deeds are as essential today as they have ever been. She shines for me across the decades as the first woman who spoke directly to students at our SCOPE Orientation in Atlanta in 1965 and who wrote these words in 2013:

[It is important to share] the experiences of working, of giving oneself to the country-changing work of the civil rights movement in America which ultimately impacted other countries around the world. As I am invited to share the experience of total commitment to the struggle that changed a gravely unjust system, I'm aware more and more how important it is to tell. When people of a different cultural or racial expression join and claim the Great Civil Rights Movement in America as their movement too when they have done so, that is as it should be. Their stories are also inspiring right here at home. Those who are coming after my generation know this truth. It was a movement we now know inspired people in other countries to open themselves to the knowledge that positive change is possible. The Freedom Struggle in Alabama was seen and heard about around the world.

Much credit is given to a select few whose names are often called as having contributed as leaders of this powerful movement. But there would have been no freedom movement - certainly not of the breadth and scope to which it evolved - had it not been for movement volunteers like you and others. Because of their giving spirit, their willingness to suffer even, a cruel and unjust system that impacted the lives of all of us was changed. When we could join together our actions moved America closer to "being true to what is said on paper (Constitution) so long ago.

 — Dr. Dorothy F. Cotton
SCLC Education Director and Citizenship Education Program Director
Founder Dorothy Cotton Institute, October 2013.


As remembered by Annette Jones White
July 1, 2018

I met Dorothy Cotton in Albany, Georgia during the Albany Movement in 1961-63, but my fondest memories of her were as one of my teachers at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Citizenship Training School in Dorchester, GA. She was very excited about teaching us to open Citizenship Schools in our home towns and her excitement rubbed off on us. I was among a group that included, Bernice Reagon, Guy Carawan, Hosea Williams and Blanton Hall. As she moved among us energetically, using her voice, hands and facial expressions, she taught us how to teach others to read and write, to do simple arithmetic and to register to vote. Because of her efforts I was able to go back home, teach in a Citizenship School and be responsible for the registration and voting of many people.

I was saddened to hear that the voice of Dorothy Cotton is silenced. However, the results of her great works and her importance to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) will remain as a testament to her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.


As remembered by Lula Williams
July 3, 2018

This is such an opportunity to reflect on my former boss and friend, Dorothy F. Cotton. I was privileged to work on the Staff of CEP (Citizenship Education Program) during Dorothy's time at SCLC when she was Director of this program.

Dorothy was the only Female Executive Staff person there and she was quite a person to reckon with. Dorothy was one of the greatest persons you wanted to meet. She was a Humanitarian, Civil Rights Activist, Leader and Friend. I got to know her well.

I worked as Executive Secretary in the CEP Department and was constantly in contact with Dorothy regarding the operations there. I worked with Mrs. Septima Clark, Mrs. Bernice Robinson, Mr. Esau Jenkins, Mr. Carl Farris and other Senior Staff to the program. Dorothy was in charge; her goal was always Educating and Training of others. She made sure she surrounded herself with those who were like minded.

We had monthly workshops where we brought in people from all around the Southeastern region and trained them on how to go back into their communities and train others on the importance of the Vote. There were many other community issues discussed; for those who didn't know how to read and write, they were taught how and were able to teach others. The CEP was well worth its goals; because of this program, many people were able to Register and Vote. Not only that, they were able to help get The Vote out in so many areas. Had it not been for Dorothy's program, many would not have been able to Register and Vote. Each Month we meet at Dorchester Community Center in Hinesville, Georgia and had our Training Classes.

I remember when Mrs. Amelia Boynton came to the workshop in August 1964 and told her story regarding the problems in Selma and how they were having so many problems trying to get Blacks registered. She talked about SNCC and The Dallas County Voters League being there, but how they were blocked in every way when they went out in the community and tried to register people. Dorothy's CEP (Citizenship Education Program) was a Kick Off for the Selma Movement; had Mrs. Boynton not been there to talk about Selma, no doubt it would taken many more years before Selma was recognized.

This is my Take, I was there at SCLC and started working on the Field Staff in the summer of 1964. I was at Dorchester in August and had the privilege to work with pretty much all of the programs credited to the organization. I'm so glad I worked and knew so many of those known and unknown. Their stories have forever changed History; this world was affected by their Labor. Dorothy was a Trailblazer for Justice, Freedom and Equality for All.

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(Labor donated)