When she was a law student, Pauli Murray argued with her professor that the doctrine of “separate but equal” would soon be overturned.
10 years later, that same professor successfully used her arguments for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case! But you won’t likely find Murray’s name in the history books.
Murray was always ahead of her time – and pushed aside. In the 1940s, she was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus and for organizing sit-ins – but the NAACP refused to take her case.
Regardless, she helped found the National Organization for Women, wrote a book that Thurgood Marshall called “the Bible for Civil Rights lawyers,” and helped form the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE). So why isn’t she better known?
In addition to her progressive politics, it could have been her LGBTQ identity that kept her out of the limelight.
Murray identified as both a lesbian and what we today call “transgender.” More “respectable” civil rights activists were afraid she’d make them look “too radical,” or were just biased against LGBTQ people.
Murray fought racial, gender, and sexual discrimination her entire life, and her erasure from our history is a travesty.
The movement for Black liberation has often failed Black women and queer and trans people, but Black liberation is for ALL Black people, and she deserves our recognition!