Pauli Murray’s Legacy

Career and Later Years

Pauli Murray’s career was defined by her roles as an activist and educator. As an activist, Murray worked for civil rights legislation as the only woman in the New York firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton, and Garrison.  She also served on multiple committees and worked with the NAACP, CORE and the ACLU.  Murray’s later years were characterized by educational roles, serving as vice-president of Benedict College in 1967 and as a Professor of Law and Politics at Brandeis University from 1968 to 1973.1

PauliMurray2Murray resigned as a professor in 1973 to pursue a divinity degree at General Theological Seminary, completing her Master of Divinity in 1976.  The following year, she was the first African-American woman ordained a priest in the history of the Episcopal Church. After serving as a priest for eight years, Pauli Murray died of cancer in her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.2


A mural of Pauli Murray, sponsored by the Pauli Murray Project.
Durham, NC.

Pauli Murray was a figure to whom many minorities could relate. She fought for civil rights and women’s rights, seeking equality based on a person’s worth rather than a biological characteristic.  In addition, even though she was not openly homosexual, Pauli Murray was a figure for gay rights because she was “convinced that she was really a man, forced…to occupy a woman’s body.”3 As a Civil Rights leader, a feminist and a homosexual, Murray has left a truly inspiring legacy of achievement in Southern insurgency. The Episcopal Church recently honored her advocacy by naming her to Episcopal sainthood.4

The Pauli Murray Project commemorates Pauli Murray’s achievements and celebrates her legacy through building awareness and preserving her memory through murals and a walking tour around Murray’s hometown, Durham, North Carolina. Click here to visit the Pauli Murray Project website.

Sources for this page:

1. Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. “Timeline.” Pauli Murray Project. Accessed May 3, 2013. pauli-murray/timeline/.
2. Ibid.
3. Rosenberg, Rosalind. “The conjunction of race and gender.” Journal of Women’s History 14.2 (2002): 68+. Biography In Context. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.
4. “Pauli Murray Named to Episcopal Sainthood.” Duke Today. Last Modified July 14, 2012. Accessed May 3, 2013.