Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist
Rosita Stevens-Holsey and Terry Catasús Jennings
Published February 8, 2022
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About Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist
Pauli Murray was a trailblazer who spent her life fighting for civil rights and women’s rights. Writer, lawyer, activist, priest, Pauli was a champion for justice. Her life is immortalized in this biography told in verse.
Pauli Murray was a thorn in the side of white America demanding justice and equal treatment for all. She was a queer civil rights and women’s rights activist before any movement advocated for either–the brilliant mind that, in 1944, conceptualized the arguments that would win Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; and in 1964, the arguments that won women equality in the workplace.
Throughout her life, she fought for the oppressed, not only through changing laws, but by using her powerful prose to influence those who could affect change. She lived by her convictions and challenged authority to demand fairness and justice regardless of the personal consequences. Without seeking acknowledgment, glory, or financial gain for what she did, Pauli Murray fought in the trenches for many of the rights we take for granted. Her goal was human rights and the dignity of life for all.
First, this is a biography told in verse, which I loved. It contains quotes from Murray herself as well as some samples of her poetry.
I hadn’t heard of Pauli Murray despite the fact that she did incredible things. This biography covers her early life, her journey through college where she faced discrimination not only due to her race but also her gender, and her later adult life.
This is the kind of story that can’t help but inspire readers. Wherever she went, Murray spoke up and challenged unfairness. I’m really disappointed that I didn’t learn anything about Pauli Murray in school. Her work made a huge impact on civil rights and women’s rights. I’ve ordered her autobiography, SONG IN A WEARY THROAT because I want to know more.
In the book, we learn that Pauli tried to convince her doctors to give her hormone treatments. The aunt who raised Pauli referred to Pauli as her “little boy-girl.” Today, Pauli would have had the language to identify as transgender.
The author describes Pauli as “A woman / who felt herself a man / trapped / in a woman’s body.” I’m not sure if that description is the author’s words or if it’s how Pauli Murray described herself. The idea is mentioned a couple of times.
Throughout the book, I couldn’t help but be impressed by how indomitable Pauli Murray was. Over and over, doors seemed to slam in her face, and she kept knocking anyway. Kept using the power of words to knock down barriers and change minds. I’m in awe of this incredible person.
I think this is a fantastic biography for young readers who want to know more about the Civil Rights Movement or the Women’s Rights Movement and its contributors, especially its unsung (at least in my public school education) heroes. Fans of LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell need to add PAULI MURRAY to their shelves.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Pauli is Black and attracted to women.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
References to relationships with women.
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