Early Years and Education

Early Years


Family portrait before Pauli Murray’s move to Durham

Pauli Murray was born on November 20, 1910 in Baltimore, Maryland to William Henry and Agnes Murray. Her mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1914, prompting Pauli’s move to Durham, North Carolina to be raised by her Aunt Pauline and her maternal grandparents.  Her five siblings were raised in Baltimore by their father’s sister and brother.

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Hillside High School Graduating Class, 1926

Murray’s Aunt Pauline was a school teacher, so Murray grew up learning alongside third graders in her aunt’s classroom until she was old enough to enter school herself. In 1926, Pauli Murray graduated at the top of her class of forty from Hillside High School in Durham.1

Educational Achievements

After graduating from Hillside High School, Pauli Murray sought higher education in New York.  She was turned away from Columbia for being a woman, and subsequently looked at Hunter College.  In order to qualify, Murray had to complete extra requirements in high school, so she enrolled in Richmond Hills High School, completing all of the necessary classes and graduating with honors in a class of more than two hundred.2

She graduated Hunter College in 1933, starting a series of academic achievements that would help shape the rest of her life.  A timeline of Pauli Murray’s educational accomplishments are below. Her education helped contribute to her activism, many publications and strong legacy.3

1926 – Graduates Hillside High School

1927 – Graduates Richmond Hills High School

1933 – Graduates Hunter College

1944 – Graduates from Howard Law School*

1945 – Receives a Masters of Law degree from University of California, Berkeley

1965 – Receives a Doctor of Juridical Science from Yale Law

1976 – Receives a Master of Divinity degree from the General Theological Seminary

*Pauli Murray graduated Howard Law School cum laude and as the only female in her class.

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Sources for this page:

1. “Pauli Murray.” Notable Black American Women. Gale, 1992. Biography In Context. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.
2. Ibid.
3. Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. “Timeline.” Pauli Murray Project. Accessed May 3, 2013. http://paulimurrayproject.org/ pauli-murray/timeline/.