Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Learning about a Ciivl Rights pioneer

If you've never heard of Pauli Murray, you're probably not alone. One of the least publicized figures of the Civil Rights movement, Murray's story emerges in My Name is Pauli Murray, a detailed and informative documentary from directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen. It turns out that, as a Howard law student, Murray advanced one of the key arguments was used by attorneys -- including Thurgood Marshall -- to argue the landmark1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education. A complex figure and a gay woman who lived with blurry gender boundaries, Murray followed multiple paths. She wrote poetry, attended Hunter College in New York City, and after law school at Howard became a teacher, activist, and, finally, a Methodist minister. Enriched by interviews with those who've studied Murray's life, by recordings Murray made herself, and by the sheer breadth of its story (Murray developed a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt), the movie  points out that Murray pioneered thinking about connections between racism and women's issues. She was both a racial justice and feminist advocate. Murray fought tirelessly for beliefs founded on intellectual, moral, and deeply personal grounds. The gender portions of Murray's story are accompanied by contemporary gay and transgender commentary. So, if you're unfamiliar with Murray, who died at the age of 75 in 1985, here's an opportunity to learn.

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