Poetry and Publications


Pauli Murray published one collection of poetry, Dark Testament and Other Poems. Reflecting on her work, Murray said, “when I wrote poetry…I wanted to use language in its most distilled sense….In other words, to use the language of the oppressor in its most effective side.”1 The following are three selections from Dark Testament and Other Poems:2

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.
Returning Spring
I’ll sink my roots far down
And drink from hidden rivers,
Renew my kinship with growing things—
The little ants will hold their congresses
Upon my arm, and cautious insects
Will make brief tours across my brows
And spiders spin webs from toe to toe.
The spears of sun will prick
No blade of grass to wakefulness
But I shall feel it tremble,
No further straw be laid upon a nest,
No twig but I shall see it quiver.
I’ll hear the symphonies within a stone,
Catch every murmur of the ground,
Travel the heavens with each vagrant cloud
And ark the golden islands in the sky.
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 rivers 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.


Pauli Murray wrote many articles and books on race and gender relations in addition to Dark Testament and Other Poems and an autobiography . A list of selected publications is below:

1943 – “Negroes are Fed Up”

1943 – “Dark Testament”

1945 – “The Right to Equal Opportunity Employment”

1951 – States’ Laws on Race and Color for the Women’s Division of the Methodist Church

1956 – Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family

1964 – “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex discrimination and Title VII”

1965 – “Roots of the Racial Crisis: Prologue to Policy”

1970 – Dark Testament and Other Poems

1970 – “The Liberation of Black Women”

1987 – Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (autobiography)


Sources for this page:

1. Oral History Interview with Pauli Murray, February 13, 1976. Interview G-0044. Southern Oral History Program
Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Published by Documenting the American South [3 May 2013]
<http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/html_use/G-0044.html >.
2. Murray, Pauli, 1910-1985. 1970. Dark testament and other poems, ed. John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.Norwalk, Conn.] Silvermine 1970], http://search.library.duke.edu/search?id=DUKE001666518.