‘My Name Is Pauli Murray’ Gives Proper Respect to an Unsung Hero

My Name Is Pauli Murray tells the story of Pauli Murray, a woman with the courage to push racial barriers and challenge gender norms.

We’re all aware of the bravery and strength it took for Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat in the segregated South. Now imagine this: another Black woman did the same thing 15 years before. That’s Pauli Murray.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1910, Pauli was taken in at three-years old by her grandparents and two aunts—Pauline and Sarah. She noticed early on the vast difference in living conditions between African-American families and their white counterparts. Who normally would’ve been called a “tomboy”, Pauli, over time, earned the nickname of “my little boy-girl” by her aunts; acknowledging her disposition for dresses and stance on gender limitations. She understood that the same arguments employed to assail Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial discrimination could be made to attack gender inequity.

Murray’s life was nothing less than extraordinary. She was a close confidante to Eleanor Roosevelt and an inspiration to the ‘Notorious RBG’, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who cites Murray in her first Supreme Court brief regarding the Equal Protection Clause). Her work not only inspired, but, earned the respect of Thurgood Marshall.

Earlier this year, drama surrounded the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for denying tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones over her work: ‘1619 Project’. It rang the oh-so memorable bells of racism nationwide, but especially in North Carolina. Why is this relevant? Because Pauli Murray was the first Black person to ever apply to UNC.

Ever the trailblazer, she was responsible for staging a sit-in at a cafe in Washington D.C. a whole 17 years before the more infamous protest at Woolworth in Greensboro, NC. Her protest resulted in the desegregation of that city block.

Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, My Name is Pauli Murray unveils her influential legacy that has largely remained untold until today. This inspirational documentary gets a 9 out of 10 and is available on Prime Video today.

-Jon Jones

Photos: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

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