Friday, April 16, 2010

Dr. Anna Pauline Murray

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The Reverend Dr. Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray was an American civil rights advocate, feminist, lawyer, writer, poet, teacher, and ordained priest. 

Pauli Murray was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1910, to William H. and Agnes Georgiana (Fitzgerald) Murray. When Pauli Murray was three years old, her mother died, and she went to live with her aunt and maternal grandparents, the Fitzgeralds, in Durham, North Carolina. Pauli graduated from Hunter College, and in 1938 was denied admission into the University of North Carolina law school because of her race. She later entered Howard University Law School and graduated as valedictorian in 1944. She sought admission to Harvard University for an advanced law degree but was denied admission because she was a woman. She then studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Masters of Law degree. 

A contemporary and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, she was a professor of American studies at Brandeis University from 1968 to 1973 and also taught law in Ghana. She was the author of the 1950 book "States' Laws on Race and Color," which catalogued state statutes discriminating against African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and other groups. 

Murray was one of the founders of the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first legal periodical to focus exclusively on women's rights. And was the first African-American woman to become an Episcopal priest. 

Pauli Murray contributed to the NAACP's litigation strategy in Brown v. Board of Education and in 1961 she was appointed to the President's Commission on the Status of Women. While serving on the commissions and studying at Yale Law School (where she was the first African-American to earn a J.S.D.) Murray authored a series of papers outlining a legal strategy for challenging sex discrimination by states. These arguments were first published in an article co-authored with Mary Eastwood after the passage of Title VII entitled "Jane Crow and the Law." 

She testified on discrimination against women before the 91st Congress of the United States. She was the first African-American woman Episcopal priest and a co-founder of NOW, the National Organization for Women. 

Pauli Murray died of cancer on July 1, 1985 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her autobiography Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage was published posthumously in 1987. In 1990, the Pauli Murray Human Relations Award was established in her honor to commemorate her life work.

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