"Black, queer, feminist, erased from history"
February 20, 2015 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Meet the most important legal scholar you’ve likely never heard of: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is this Supreme Court's liberal hero, but her work sits on the shoulders of Dr. Pauli Murray

The Reverend Pauli Murray, 1910-1985
Murray graduated from Hunter College in 1933. After a campaign to gain admission into the all-white University of North Carolina law school in 1938, she was denied entry due to her race. The next year she took a job with the Workers’ Defense League and went onto graduate from Howard University Law School in 1944. She was denied admission to Harvard University for an advanced law degree because of her gender. In 1945 Murray successfully completed her Masters of Law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Her master's thesis was The Right to Equal Opportunity in Employment[PDF], which Thurgood Marshal labeled the “bible” for civil rights lawyers. Twenty years later, she was the first African American to be awarded a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Yale University Law School.
One Woman's Freedom Movement
"Seeing the relationship between my personal cause and the universal cause of freedom released me from a sense of isolation, helped me to rid myself of vestiges of shame over my racial history, and gave me an unequivocal understanding that equality of treatment was my birthright and not something to be earned. I would be no less afraid to challenge the system of racial segregation, but the heightened significance of my cause would impel me to act in spite of my fears."
some photos of "The Heroine Who Fought 'Jane Crow'" from the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute and an exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South and an oral history interview with Dr. Murray at The Southern Oral History Program

How 'Respectablity Politics' Muted The Legacy Of Black LGBT Activist Pauli Murray

Dr. Murray also wrote Proud Shoes: The Story Of An American Family about her own family history (sample chapter) and Song In A Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, her autobiography (sample chapter[PDF]), reviewed by Paula Giddings in The Nation. And Dr. Murray maintained a correspondence with Caroline Ware, recorded in Forty Years Of Letters In Black And White.

and that's Saint Pauli Murray to you!
posted by the man of twists and turns (7 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

I have no comment, because I have too much to digest here, but thank you so much for posting this.
posted by happyroach at 12:43 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

She is a real hero in her hometown of Durham, NC, with numerous street art murals of her face throughout the city, but until reading the Huff Post article yesterday, I had no idea she was genderqueer. This is a lovely post.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:28 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is so interesting, yes, I never heard of her, but now plan to get her autobiography. Small personal connection, my grandparents worked for Bishop Paul Moore's parents, and I too got a blessing from him when I met him shortly before he passed away. He was a great man and she sounds like a great and brave woman.
posted by mermayd at 5:07 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, thank you! I had heard of Pauli Murray, probably because she died shortly before I started law school at UCLA, where "intersectionality" was becoming a thing (thank you, Kimberle Crenshaw!), but I had no idea the breadth of her interests and careers.

This is awesome.
posted by allthinky at 6:26 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Grand Canyon-sized gap in my second-wave knowledge has started to close. THANK YOU.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 9:13 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was in college in the late 80s (not at UCLA) and I'm distressed that I didn't learn all about her then. Thanks for helping me correct that error now.
posted by immlass at 11:13 AM on February 21, 2015

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