Dorothy F. Cotton Passed Away

Dear friends,

Sunday, June 10, 2018, our co-founder and Distinguished Fellow, Dorothy F. Cotton died peacefully in her residence, Kendal at Ithaca, with loved ones at her bedside. She was a remarkably courageous leader, an inspiring educator, a great spirit, and our dear friend. Thank you for the many kind messages that we at the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) have been receiving from far and near. She is sorely missed. There will be a public memorial service for her in the future, and we will let everyone know the details once they are confirmed.

Please read the wonderful tribute to Dorothy Foreman Cotton written by her friend and colleague, Dr. Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Feel free to contact us:

Laura Branca,
DCI Senior Fellow,

Kirby Edmonds,
DCI Senior Fellow and Program Coordinator,



Dorothy Foreman Cotton (June 9, 1930 – June 10, 2018)

A History of a Just & Peaceful Future


Susan and I are mourning the passing Sunday afternoon of our vivacious friend and dedicated human rights advocate Dorothy Cotton. During most of the 1960s, Dorothy was the highest ranking woman in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), directing the group’s  Citizenship Education Program (CEP) at the peak of the Southern civil rights struggle. Her position placed her in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inner circle of executive staff, and she was part of entourage who traveled to Oslo, Norway, in December 1964, to celebrate King’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dorothy was a consistent advocate of the notion that movements are not built by leaders but from the bottom, at the grassroots level. As she wrote in her 2012 memoir, If Your Back’s Not Bent: The Role of the Citizenship Education Program in the Civil Rights Movement, King emerged out of a movement beyond the control of…

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