SBHM: Dr. Pauli Murray

Hello Ladies! (And gentleman … gentlemen? Are there any? >.>) So we all know it’s Black History Month … and I know there are mixed feelings about “all that” – which I don’t care to discuss at this time. (Because how and what?) The point is … I want to “introduce” you to Dr. Pauli Murray.

Pauli MurrayI don’t know much about her, and only recently learned about her … but what I’ve read is incredible and she’s someone who deserves to be better known than she is. Today there’s the Salon article on her: Black, queer, feminist, erased from history: Meet the most important legal scholar you’ve likely never heard of which you can read here. You should also read over her Wikipedia article. Pauli Murray was the only female in her law school class at Howard Law School. She also graduated first in her class. In 1947 she was named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle. Murray was the first African American to receive a J.S.D. from Yale.

Dr. Murray had numerous publications, among those a memoir Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family. Her autobiography, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, was published posthumously in 1987 then re-released as Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet in 1989.

Not only was Dr. Murray a co-founder of NOW, the National Organization for Women, she was also the first woman to be awarded a J.D.S degree from Yale. Which … wow.

Here are two of her poems. Absolutely beautiful.

Dark Testament, Verse 8.

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

And from Prophecy.

I sing of a new American

Separate from all others,

Yet enlarged and diminished by all others.

I am the child of kings and serfs, freemen and slaves,

Having neither superiors nor inferiors,

Progeny of all colors, all cultures, all systems, all beliefs.

I have been enslaved, yet my spirit is unbound.

I have been cast aside, but I sparkle in the darkness.

I have been slain but live on in the river of history.

I seek no conquest, no wealth, no power, no revenge:

I seek only discovery

Of the illimitable heights and depths of my own being.

[If there are mistakes I’m sorry. :X]

Pauli Murray was ahead of her times in so many different ways – race, gender, identity … and Duke has a really cool page on her with a series of photographs Pauli did to show the different facets of her person[ality]. The Imp, Dude, Crusader … and later Priest.

This is by no means a comprehensive post … but I just wanted to share what I’ve learned. And this is way more highbrow and fitting with the post of this month than a BuzzFeed video I had been considering. XD

Did you know about Pauli Murray before today? (I didn’t.) Do you have a favorite African American figure that you think deserves more “press”?

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