Pauli Murray Broke Barriers

An image of Pauli Murray from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel HillOn July 1, 1985, lawyer, professor, writer and outspoken civil and women’s rights activist Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray died.

Born in 1910, Murray grew up under the care of her aunt in Durham. In 1938, Murray applied to the University of North Carolina to study sociology. Her application, against state laws which required “separate but equal” institutions, garnered national attention. Her unsuccessful campaign for admission was the first time that she experienced a saying that she would repeat throughout her life: one woman with a typewriter constitutes a movement.

Murray was admitted to Howard Law School in 1941, where she experienced discrimination due to her gender rather than her race. She would later wonder whether her race or gender was the greatest obstacle to her career. Murray was a prolific writer. In 1951, she published State’s Laws on Race and Color. Thurgood Marshall called it “the Bible for civil rights lawyers.” Her second book, a biographical account, Proud Shoes, was published in 1956.

In 1977, Murray became the first African American female Episcopal priest in the United States, and held her first Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, where her grandmother had been baptized as a slave.

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