Dorothy Cotton teaches in a Citizenship Education Program class. Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries

ITHACA, N.Y. — The life and legacy of civil rights icon Dorothy Cotton will be celebrated at a community event Aug. 11 at Cornell University.

Cotton, a longtime community member and pioneer of civil rights, died peacefully June 10 at Kendal at Ithaca. She was 88.

Related: Civil rights leader, Ithaca resident Dorothy Cotton dies

She was one of the “most important unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement,” her biography on the Dorothy Cotton Institute states.

Dr. Baruch Whitehead, director of the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, stands with Dorothy Cotton. (Provided Photo)

Cotton worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was education director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She led the Citizen Education Program, which helped black citizens register to vote, and helped people understand their civil rights, organize their communities and envision the change they desired.

Guest speakers will include three civil rights leaders: John R. Lewis, winner of the Congressional Medal of Freedom; Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta; and William Barber II, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Others from the community and around the country who knew Cotton will also speak.

The event will include a performance by the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers.

The event will go from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 11 in Bailey Hall at Cornell University. It is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.

Tickets are not available online, but they are available at several spots around Ithaca. Stop by the following locations:

Featured image: Dorothy Cotton teaches in a Citizen Education Program class. Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.