Pauli Murray

American writer, activist, lawyer and Episcopal priest (1910-1985)

Pauli Murray (20 November 1910 – 1 July 1985) was an American civil rights activist, women's rights activist, lawyer, author, poet, educator and Episcopal priest.

I have accepted the challenge of being a Negro in America and of being an American first.


  • I have accepted the challenge of being a Negro in America and of being an American first.
  • I want to be an American — without the hyphen.
    • Sadler, Betty (10 November 1967). "She Refuses To Leave Leadership To "Spoilers'". The State (Columbia, SC): p. 3−B. 
  • This society is not hospitable to persons of color, women or left-handed people.
    • Boodman, Sandra (28 February 1977). "A master of many trades". Washington Post (Washington DC). 

Quotes about Pauli Murray

  • We had been led to believe that American education is inferior. We have been impressed with American technology, however, and through your Constitutional law class—the first time we have ever been taught by an American—we have come to change our views. We used to accept without questioning whatever the lecturer said. Through your class we have learned to inquire.
    • Murray, Pauli (October, 1961). "On Teaching Constitutional Law In Ghana". Yale Law Report 8 (1).
  • On the afternoon of the first day we heard presentations on Black women, racism, and the American legal process. Pauli Murray, one of the senior female attorneys in the country, told us a story which has stayed with me. Thirty years ago, Murray was just out of law school, the only woman in her graduating class at Howard. After great difficulty she secured a job with a New York law firm, and one of her first clients was a woman from Spanish Harlem, who was accused of prostitution. The case went to trial, and the chief witness for the prosecution was the "john." The prosecutor elicited every detail of the sexual transaction and in conclusion asked the witness to identify the woman with whom he had had this sexual association. Without a moment's hesitation the witness identified Pauli Murray. The Washington audience gasped, of course, as she told the story, and then we started to laugh. Pauli Murray laughed with us, saying she could laugh thirty years after the fact, but still, she wanted to be sure that we understood the complete humiliation to which she was subjected. When she rose to move dismissal of the case, the judge ordered her seated, denied the motion, found the woman from Spanish Harlem guilty, and sentenced her to a prison term. It occurred to me later how hard it had been for Pauli Murray to tell us that story, even after thirty years.
    • Bettina Aptheker Woman's Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982)
  • I did go to Howard University, and that was where I was arrested for the first time. I went with two of my friends who were undergrad coeds, downtown in Washington, DC, which was about as segregated as anyplace in the United States at that time. I went to Howard in 1941. This was in '43 though, at the beginning of the year, I think. And we went to a drugstore that had a lunch counter-asked for some hot chocolate. We were told, "We don't serve Negroes." We said, "Well, we'd like to see the manager." "The manager isn't in." And we said, "Well, we have plenty of time. We'll just sit here." And finally they brought the hot chocolate, but they gave us tickets, bills for 25 cents, when it clearly stated on the board that hot chocolate was ten cents a cup, so that's what we put down. And I always like to say that's probably all we had anyway. But, then we walked out and were met by-my recollection is-seven of DC's finest, that is, the police. And they put us in the paddy wagon and took us to jail. After we had this incident, a woman who became a very dear friend, Pauli Murray, was there. She was about ten years older than us coeds. She was in law school, and she knew about CORE that had started. And we formed the Howard's—I think it was called "Civil Rights Committee" and actually opened up a restaurant on the edge of campus in one week, less than a week. I never had such a quick victory, never since that time. It was just a sort of a greasy spoon restaurant, but it was a heady victory for us. We had a picket line; we had a sit–in; lots of people agreed with us, and he capitulated. (By "opened up") I mean we desegregated it.


  • Murray, Pauli (1956). Proud Shoes: The Story Of An American Family, Harper & Brothers, New York. ISBN 0-8070-7209-5.
  • Rubin, Leslie and Pauli Murray (1961). The Constitution and Government of Ghana, Sweet & Maxwell, London. African Universities Press, 1964*Murray, Pauli (1970). Dark Testament and other poems, Silvermine, Norwalk, Connecticut, ISBN 978-0-87321-016-4
  • Murray, Pauli (1987). Song In A Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, Harper & Row, New York City. ISBN 0-06-015704-6.
republished (June 1989) as The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest and Poet (Paperback), University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0-87049-596-8.
  • Murray, Pauli (Davison Douglas, ed., 2d ed. 1997). States' Law on Race and Color, University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-1883-7
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