Dorothy Cotton

Today, we’re focusing on a prominent name from Cornell University, Dorothy Cotton. Cotton was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina and studied at three different universities throughout her lifetime. She performed undergraduate work at Shaw University, earned a BA in English and Library Science at Virginia State College, and received a Master’s degree in Speech Therapy at Boston University. During this time, Cotton was fighting for civil rights alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He recruited her for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), where she was the only female Executive Staff member.

During her life, Cotton made great contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. She created the Citizenship Education Program (CEP) which taught disenfranchised citizens about the importance of fighting for their civil rights. In the 1980s, she worked at Cornell University as the Director of Student Activities, and she called Ithaca home until her death in 2018. If you want to learn more about her up close, you can visit her gravesite at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Ithaca.

Dorothy Cotton’s work has taught others for generations in how to fight for their civil rights. She was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement and knew what needed to be done to ensure that others could get the fair treatment they deserved. Her work continues to inspire others today to fight for making their home a great place to live for all.

To learn more about Dorothy Cotton, visit

Last updated February 8, 2022