The date of birth for Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray was November 20, 1910, in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1914, her mother suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. Her father was a teacher in the Baltimore public school system who struggled with depression. He was eventually locked up in a state mental hospital, where a white guard killed him in 1923. Murray moved to Durham, North Carolina, to live with her aunt and grandparents when she was 14 and no longer had a family.
Murray moved to New York City to attend Hunter College after earning his high school diploma with honors in 1926. She received her English literature degree in 1933. Murray’s gender issues started to dominate her life at this point and continued to do so throughout the 1930s. To reflect a more androgynous identity, she changed her name to “Pauli.” Rosalind Rosenberg is a historian and the author of Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray. She says that Murray thought of herself as a transgender male, but she didn’t know how to explain it at the time or have the social acceptance to do so.
Murray served as a teacher in New York City and worked for the Workers Defense League and the Works Projects Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. One of the magazines she wrote for was The Crisis, which was put out by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Murray quickly got active in the fight for civil rights. Her failed effort to enroll in graduate school at the all-white University of North Carolina drew widespread media attention. Murray became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt around this time and started writing to her on a regular basis.
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Murray fought to eliminate racial segregation on public transportation. Murray was arrested and imprisoned as a result of her activities in March 1940 for refusing to sit in the rear of a bus in Richmond, Virginia. With the goal of practicing civil rights law, Murray enrolled at Howard University’s law school in 1941. The next year, she founded the nonviolent Congress of Racial Equality with George Houser, James Farmer, and Bayard Rustin (CORE). Her time at Howard helped her realize how oppressed she was as a woman, and she came up with the name “Jane Crow” to express it.
Murray received the renowned Rosenwald Fellowship after graduating at the top of her class in 1944. Murray’s admission to Harvard Law School was turned down due to her gender, even though previous grads had used the grant to attend Harvard University. The prejudice she encountered because of her sexual orientation would influence a lot of her work in civil rights.
After completing her Master of Laws from the University of California at Berkeley, Murray went to New York City and supported the expanding civil rights movement. She published States’ Laws on Race and Color in 1951. Thurgood Marshall, who was in charge of the legal department at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called Murray’s work the “Bible” for civil rights lawyers.
Murray suffered from McCarthyism like many other black people who were active in the civil rights movement. Because the references she provided—Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, and A. Philip Randolph—were seen as radicals, she was denied a US State Department position at Cornell University in 1952. A few years later, Murray joined the brand-new law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison, where she eventually met her partner, Irene Barlow.
Murray visited Ghana in 1960 to learn more about her African cultural heritage and to teach law. After returning to the United States, she went to Yale University and earned her J.S.D., making history as the first African American to do so. While she was there, Marian Wright Edelman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Patricia Roberts Harris—all of whom would go on to become well-known leaders—were mentored by Murray.
Throughout the 1960s, Murray persisted in her involvement. As a member of his Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, President John F. Kennedy appointed Murray to the Committee on Civil and Political Rights. Murray, who collaborated closely with A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., questioned the discrepancy between the significant role black women played in the important grass-roots movement and their low participation in national policy-making decisions. Murray helped establish the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966 alongside Betty Friedan and other women, but she eventually stepped down as the organization’s leader because she felt that black and working-class women’s issues were not being addressed.
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Murray joined the Brandeis University faculty from 1968 to 1973. When her longtime lover, Irene Barlow, passed away in 1973, Murray left Brandeis to apply for ordination at General Theological Seminary. Murray was the first African American woman in the US to be ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1977.
The Equal Protection Clause’s premise that racial discrimination should apply equally to gender-based discrimination was made possible by Murray’s groundbreaking work on gender discrimination. In her 1971 brief in Reed v. Reed, which concluded that women may not be prohibited from serving as administrators of personal estates based on their gender, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognized Murry’s legal tactic as the source of inspiration. Since then, many sex discrimination claims have used the Equal Protection Clause as an example.
On July 1st, 1985, Murray passed away from cancer in Pittsburgh.
Pauli Murry, gender, and pronouns
Today’s terminology and language differ from that used during Pauli Murray’s lifetime when discussing LGBTQ communities, gender expression, and gender identities. In correspondence with family members, Murray identified himself as a “he or she personality.” Later, Pauli used “she/her/hers” pronouns and identified as a woman in diaries, essays, letters, and autobiographical works.
When referring to Murray, academics employ a variety of pronouns, including “he/him/his” pronouns (Simmons-Thorne), “they/them/theirs” pronouns (Keaveney), “s/he” pronouns (Fisher), and “she/her/hers” pronouns (Rosenberg, Cooper, Drury). We are unsure of Pauli Murray’s current self-identification or the pronouns she would employ when expressing herself. The National Park Service is still having a conversation about this, but we do agree that pronouns matter.
Sources : Wikipedia