A Woman Not of Her Time
Writing > Profile
Institution: The University of North Carolina General Alumni Association
Title of entry: A Woman Not of Her Time
About this entry: Pauli Murray grew up in Durham, North Carolina and did most of her work in civil rights in the Northeast, oblivious to people where she was from. When she applied for admission to a Carolina graduate program in 1938, there were signs elsewhere that higher education’s doors might start opening to people of color. But two days after an African American was admitted to the University of Missouri’s law school — by court order — Murray got the notice that she was denied admission to Carolina. Murray already had reached out to Franklin Roosevelt to make her case for desegregation. He didn’t respond, but Eleanor Roosevelt did, and the exchange brought Roosevelt and Murray into a lifelong friendship that played a significant role in her work getting noticed. As a lawyer and civil rights activist, Murray worked in a time of tragic tradeoffs that slowed her work: After she befriended Thurgood Marshall, when he was an attorney with the NAACP — that organization decided not to take her case for fear that her political radicalism might offend a conservative judge. She went on to a remarkably effective career.