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Title: Oral History Interview with Pauli Murray, February 13, 1976. Interview G-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Murray, Pauli, interviewee
Interview conducted by McNeil, Genna Rae
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 348 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-03-14, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Pauli Murray, February 13, 1976. Interview G-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0044)
Author: Genna Rae McNeil
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Pauli Murray, February 13, 1976. Interview G-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0044)
Author: Pauli Murray
Description: 583 Mb
Description: 117 p.
Note: Interview conducted on February 13, 1976, by Genna Rae McNeil; recorded in Alexandria, Virginia.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Pauli Murray, February 13, 1976.
Interview G-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Murray, Pauli, interviewee


Interview Participants

    PAULI MURRAY, interviewee
    GENNA RAE McNEIL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
In connection with the goal of the Southern Oral History Program, namely studying individuals in the South who have made significant contributions to various fields of human endeavor, the following is an interview conducted by Genna Rae McNeil, assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, February 13, 1976 with Pauline, better known as "Pauli," Murray. Pauli Murray is a distinguished American Negro [her preference] who has been involved in the struggle for civil rights for blacks, women's rights, equal rights, in other words, the struggle for human rights, qua: writer and poet, activist, lawyer and professor since the 1930s.1 Dr. Murray comes from a family of educators. Her maternal grandfather, who was one of the first students of Asmun Institute, later renamed Lincoln University, helped to establish schools for freed blacks in Virginia and North Carolina following his military service for the Union forces in the Civil War. Her father was a principal in the Baltimore public schools and her aunt and namesake, Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, taught many years in the city school system of Durham, North Carolina. Although Dr. Murray was born in Baltimore, Maryland, shortly after the sudden death of her mother, she moved to Durham, North Carolina to live with her Aunt Pauline's family headed by her maternal grandparents, Robert G. and Cornelia Smith Fitzgerald. There she was raised to be a strong individual and an independent thinker. There she was nourished with stories about her family, her heritage, and taught to have pride in her racial identity, which necessitated walking straight and tall in "proud shoes" despite feelings and obstacles. Therefore, after attending segregated

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schools through grade eleven in Durham, North Carolina, Ms. Murray went on to seek higher education in nonsegregated schools. She earned an A.B. as an English major at Hunter College in New York in 1933, an LL.B.cum laude at Howard University in 1944, an LL.M. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1945, and an S.J.D at Yale University School of Law in 1965.2 She has published numerous books and articles on a variety of subjects, States Laws on Race and Color, compiled and edited by Ms. Murray in 1951, Proud Shoes: The Story of An American Family, published in 1956, The Constitution and Government of Ghana, 1961, co-authored with Leslie Rubin, and a book of poetry, Dark Testament And Other Poems in 1970, although most of these poems were written between 1933 and 1941. Articles include, "The Negro Woman's Stake in the Equal Rights Amendment," which appeared in the Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, 1971 and "The Liberation of Black Women," which appeared in Joe Freeman's Women: A Feminist Perspective, 1975, and other feminist anthologies. She is presently working on a new book under the working title, The Fourth Generation of Proud Shoes. As an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and member of the board of directors, whe has contributed to federal court decisions recognized as precedent-making with regard to sex discrimination, namely, the litigation White vs. Crook in 1966 and Reed vs. Reed in 1971. Her honors and awards include the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, 1944-45. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Council of Negro Women and Mademoiselle Magazine in 1946 and 1947, respectively. She was awarded an LL.D. degree by Stonehill College in 1967, Northeastern Massachusetts. In 1970, Howard University bestowed her with the Alumni

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Award for Distinguished Post-Graduate Achievement in Law and Public Service. She was listed in the World's Who's Who of Women, named to the Hall of Fame of Hunter College Alumni Association and recepient of the degree of Doctor of Science from Lowell Technological Institute in 1973. Moreover, a biographical sketch of Dr. Murray will appear in the 1976-77 Who's Who in America. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the various positions held by Dr. Murray include Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, California; Associate Attorney at the renowned Paul, Wise, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison firm of New York City; Senior Lecturer at the Ghana Law School, Accra, Ghana; member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women; Vice-President of Benedict College; and Professor of Law and Politics at Brandeis University. Dr. Murray, I would like to begin with your family background and a quotation by someone very dear to you: "The past is the key of the present and the mirror of the future. Therefore let us adopt as a rule to judge the future by the history of the past, and having the key of past experience that has opened the door to present success and future happiness."
PAULI MURRAY:
That was in my Grandfather Fitzgerald's diary.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, 1867. July, 1867. I have several questions about your family background. First of all, although you were born in Baltimore, Maryland, during your childhood, in a real sense you became a North Carolinian. I would like to know something about your ties to Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. Specifically, I have questions, although you have gotten much into Proud Shoes: The Story of An American Family, I would like to know first of all, something about your parents, who they were, and although we know that your mother died at an early

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age, what you can recall of your mother, what you recall being told about your mother, and what you recall of your father.
PAULI MURRAY:
[Showing a picture] Well, those are my parents. That picture was taken the year that I was born, 1910. I think that it was taken very shortly after my birth. My mother was Agnes Georgiana Fitzgerald Murray and my father was William H. Murray. He was a teacher in the Baltimore city public schools and was also a principal. She was one of the early graduates of Hampton School of Nurses …or Hampton Training School for Nurses. She graduated in the class of 1902. My mother died when I was a little over three and there were six of us, four girls and two boys. I'm number four down. The oldest girl was about nine when my mother died and the baby was about six months, a baby brother. The ages were spaced so that the three of us were really babies at the time of my mother's death. I was three, my younger sister was about twenty months, my baby brother was about six months, and something had to be decided about the three babies of the family. The three older children stayed with my father and my mother's oldest sister, Pauline …who you recognize in Proud Shoes as Mary Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, was both my namesake and my godmother. She had kept me for periods of time before my mother's death and my father, in a sense, gave me to Aunt Pauline; but I understand that I was allowed to make the choice. I was asked, the day after my mother's funeral, if I would like to go with Aunt Pauline or if I would like to stay with the other children, which meant staying with my father, brother and two sisters. I am told that I said, "I want to go with Aunt Pauline," and that I broke into tears. In adult reflection, I would say that this shows the child that was pulled between wanting to identify with family and at the same time, this sense of loyalty and clinging to this aunt

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for security. In a sense, this is a history of my life, being pulled between my family and other things.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
There was nothing about the experiences of the family in Baltimore that made you want to leave that particular town, was there?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, I was so young that it would be hard to say. I would not remember anything. I think that perhaps I may have experienced and understood more than I remembered. My mother died suddenly with a cerebral hemorrhage and this must have been a very painful and traumatic experience within the family. I may have blotted out the memories of it. My guess is that in that kind of tragedy, the mother just dying suddenly, that I reached out to the one person that I felt secure with.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Had you seen your Aunt Pauline often?
PAULI MURRAY:
She had kept me for about six months when I was about eighteen months old.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, she was in …
PAULI MURRAY:
She was in Durham, teaching.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
She didn't come to Baltimore, your parents brought you to Durham?
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, well, during the period …during my parent's married life, the ten years of their married life, there was a great deal of visiting back and forth. My mother would come home with the children, Aunt Pauline would go up and spend summers with her after school was over. Aunt Pauline had introduced my parents and she felt a strong responsibility for them. They both loved her dearly.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
She was a matchmaker for them?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, she was a kind of matchmaker, confessor, older sister, Rock of Gibralter. She was with them in all kinds of family

Page 6
crises and of course, I was named for her. So, she would obviously have a great sense of identification with her little namesake. For some reason, she cared very deeply for me and I think that she wanted very much to take me. She had lost both of her own children …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Childbirth or …
PAULI MURRAY:
Her little girl lived for about a week, and I don't know what that might have been. The little boy died of meningitis at nine months, so you can see that …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
So you certainly met needs for each other.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Can you tell us what it was like growing up in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. Did you move around or were you in one place most of the time?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, I grew up in Grandfather's house. Grandfather Fitzgerald's house, which again you will recognize in Proud Shoes. There's a whole chapter talking about Grandfather's house and it's still there, by the way, on Carroll Street. I lived in Grandfather's house which meant, more or less, that I was a very small child with four to five very settled adults. Living in Grandfather's house and being a part of a larger family, an extended family …in those days, the Fitzgeralds and their kin were legion …gave me a sense of real roots and security. On the other hand, I had a different name, I had my own family, of which I was very conscious, and in some ways, I was alien. I felt very much a part of the house, I was made to feel a part of the family, I knew that I was a Fitzgerald descendent and yet,

Page 7
there was always this longing for my family, my brothers and sisters, and a kind of …I guess "sadness" about not having parents.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Did you visit your own family very often?
PAULI MURRAY:
Not until five years later and I only visited them, I think, once during my childhood. I was not very congenial with my Murray elders. [Laughter] I was one child, independent, had a point of view, had been permitted to assert myself and I think that my uncle and aunt, who were my father's sister and brother, by that time having five children, five Murray's to take care of …my father became ill and was in the hospital …had a kind of discipline to which I was not accustomed. A rather rigorous kind of discipline. I was given a considerable amount of freedom for a child of those days. Aunt Pauline was a public school teacher, taught anywhere from the first through the fourth grade and a real disciplinarian, but had great sensitivity to children. I don't recall ever being suppressed in terms of "Shut up, don't you speak, children should be seen and not heard," or anything of the sort. I was allowed, I think, full self-expression, coupled with work discipline. I always knew that I had certain tasks to do and those tasks had to be done before I could do anything else, before I went to play.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Before I ask any more questions specifically about the important members of your family, I would like to get something about what it was like to be in Durham. You describe it in Proud Shoes as a village something like a frontier town and you said that while there was considerable prejudice, "that there was recognition of individual worth and bridges of natural respect between older white and colored families of the town." Now, was this something that only hindsight made you

Page 8
realize or was this something that one could be aware of even in adolescence?
PAULI MURRAY:
No. The quotation that you are giving there was my characterization of post-Civil War Durham in the latter part of the nineteenth century. I am really there talking about the climate in which my parent's generation, my mother and her sisters and brother grew up in and the time in which my grandparents and their generation were in their prime. Durham being this really post-Civil War town, it did not exist before the Civil War, so it had no background tradition of slavery and the Confederacy and all this sort of thing, and it being this kind of frontier town, it meant that people like my grandfather and his brother, my great uncle, Richard Burton Fitzgerald, coming into the town and being resourceful businessmen, had a rough respect of their white counterparts. And this would be true of families. One would recognize the Fitzgeralds, along with maybe the Hills and the Carrs and the Dukes, not necessarily …when I use these terms, not suggesting that there were any social contacts between them, but simply a recognition that these were hard working, respectable families, good solid citizens of the community. And there was this rough respect.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, do you say that this continued?
PAULI MURRAY:
I suspect that by the time I came along it was not the same. You know …oh, I am trying to think of our historian who wrote The Nadir
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Rayford Logan.
PAULI MURRAY:
Rayford Logan, he talks about the nadir of Negro life and around 1900 to 1915 was simply the lowest, the very lowest ebb, and I think that I came along in Durham, and I came to Durham around 1914

Page 9
when I was about three, I imagine that I grew up in sort of the aftermath of that lowest period, in which segregation had now become legal …somewhere between 1900 and 1910, you know, all the segregation laws began to pile one on top of another …and therefore, everything was clamped down tight in terms of rigid legal segregation of the races, lynching was still continuing, perhaps not as intense as it had been earlier, but it was still done and you would get maybe fifty or sixty people a year being lynched and lynching was something always in the background. You know, the terror of lynching was always in the background. The awareness of the Ku Klux Klan was always in the background.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
At what point in your life did you become sensitive to these kinds of racial distinctions, primarily the restrictions and the terrorization of this violence that was a part of being an Afro-American or a Negro or a black in the town? And then also, were you aware of color distinctions, that is, between mulattos and the darker and did this make any difference at all in terms of the Durham community?
PAULI MURRAY:
Let me see, let me answer these one by one. I suppose this awareness to a child of my generation grows with you just like almost a part of your body and your being. It is hard to say when you become aware because you take it in all of the time. I don't remember, for example, lynchings being prominently portrayed in the newspapers, but we would hear about them by word of mouth. You know, [whispering] "Somebody got lynched over in So-and-So County last night." I think

Page 10
that sometimes, they were even suppressed in the newspapers, but one was aware of it. It was something that one was aware of. Awareness of segregation …of course wherever you went in town, you saw the "White" signs, the "Colored" signs, drinking fountains, anytime that one would go down into the public center of town, one would be very, very conscious of it. Obviously, one would be conscious of separate schools and separate churches and the older people talking. It's something that you simply grow up with. It's not something that you suddenly experience. Now, there may be particular experiences.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
So therefore, you had no particular experiences such as Benjamin Mays or Malcom X., who might have had a Ku Klux Klan experience, that kind of violence perpetrated upon the family immediately or directly?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, only my grandmother's and my grandfather's memories, my grandmother would tell me about the Ku Klux Klan riding around her little cabin up in Chapel Hill and how sometimes she would get up at midnight and walk the twelve miles to Durham because she was afraid to stay there. This was during Reconstruction times when apparently the Ku Klux Klan was not very happy to have a person of color owning property. But for myself, not probably until I was about eight or nine did I have any experience that dramatized it for me. As a girl, obviously there would be a certain kind of protected life, I would not be as much …I wouldn't be as free to roam or to go around by myself, let us say, as probably the males were. Also, I would be probably less the target of male aggression, white male aggression, as a girl.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Well, I wonder, your mixed heritage and the whole issue of

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color in your family, did this cause any particular problems growing up in Durham …
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, yes. [Laughter]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Problems that were not the same kinds of problems of someone who came from a strictly black heritage and would not have this experience?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, one of the ways that it showed itself …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I think of Harriet, you know.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. One of the ways that it showed itself was that I was one of three …the term that they used to use in those days was "light skinned children." Christine Taylor, whom you know as Christine Morris, Lucille Johnson, whom you know as Lucille Johnson Hancock. She is a retired school teacher in Durham. Now, if you recall those types, you know Christine, here were children of …I was much less so, but here were children who were almost indistinguishable from Caucasian children and wherever you are a minority, you know, whether you are a fair skinned minority or even if you are a white minority, a Caucasian minority among black kids … and this is now being spelled out in studies here in the District where there are white kids who are a distinct minority in predominantly black schools, wherever you are a minority you are apt to run into the normal kinds of being the butt of children's cruelty. So, I was very aware of being a minority, a light skinned minority among the kids in school. One of the ways that the other kids in school would enforce this kind of pecking order, they would say, "Black is honest and yellow is dishonest." You know, meaning that you are illegitimate and

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this was supposed to make you feel terribly ashamed. The very term, "yellow" was meant to be a term of insult.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, the fact that the Fitzgeralds were a prominent family and that perhaps you could say that economically their class was somewhat above the average Afro-American, did this make any considerable difference in your life in Durham, interrelations with black people and the kinds of business associations that the family might have with white persons?
PAULI MURRAY:
By the time that I came along, there was a fairly good nucleus of a Negro, or in those days they called it "colored," a colored middle class business and professional community. By the time that I came along, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was well established. As a matter of fact, as a junior and senior in high school, during my summers I worked as a typist in North Carolina Mutual and many of the kids in high school worked in the summer in the North Carolina Mutual Company. The Mechanics and Farmers Bank was established, we had Negro doctors, lawyers, an editor of a newspaper, there was the Bankers Fire Insurance Company, Durham was then called "the Mecca of Negro business." So that what I am really saying is, that there was a middle class to which my family belonged, more or less. Within that middle class, however, the Robert Fitzgerald family, of which I was the grandchild, might be called "the respectable poor." We were not business people. My aunts were widows, my grandmother and grandfather were very frail and elderly and lived on his tiny Civil War pension, which was about twenty-five dollars a month. So, money was hard to come by, we didn't have a car, we didn't have a cow, we didn't have a horse or

Page 13
buggy, we were really the respectable poor. But our values were middle class and therefore, to that extent, I think that there was polite interchange, there was neighborly kindness, but there wasn't social visiting back and forth between the kids who lived in The Bottom and me. Does that give you an idea?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes. One thing that interested me about Durham and segregation was a comment that you made about schools and you said, regarding the textbooks and materials, that "it wasn't so much the hardships that hurt, but the contrast between what we had and white children."
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, this was true. I'll never forget West End School. It was a rickety old wooden built building with the paint peeling; I can see those scales now. You know how wood or shingles or paint blisters and I can see it. When there was a wind in a storm, you could just hear the wind blowing through that old building. I think that it was a two storey building, it might have been a three storey building, but anyway … And of course, the white kids school, a nice brick school sitting in a lawn surrounded by a fence. West End was up on a sort of clay, barren ground. There was no lawn whatsoever. It just sat on clay. The fact that I can remember this today and I can see that old school building there, no swings, nothing to play with when you went out …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And I imagine that there was quite a walk to school for you?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, let's see …I guess that it was about a half a mile, maybe more than half a mile. You know where West Main Street is and you know where West Chapel Hill Street is and you know where Morehead

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Avenue is, well, I had to walk from almost Morehead Avenue, north to almost West Main Street to get to old West End. So, I guess that it was a good half hour's walk. As I say, it was the contrast between the treatment we got and the treatment that the white kids got and particularly the way that we were treated in the newspapers, you see. I think that I described that in Proud Shoes and I said how if they were going to talk about Field Day or any citywide activities of the school children, most of the space would be given to what goes on with the white kids and then down at the bottom there might be a little paragraph on what happened in the colored school. You sense those things, you feel them.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
As an adolescent, despite these experiences, did you still feel that you wanted to be an individual, just a child who could enjoy growing up and doing the things that children or teenagers did, or did you become so disturbed by these contrasts that even in high school itself you felt that perhaps in your later life you might want to do something about segregation or about racism?
PAULI MURRAY:
I think that I operated on two levels. I was an all round athlete, I was the editor in chief of the high school newspaper, I was a member of the debating club, I was involved in most of the things that kids are involved in. I enjoyed doing these things, but underneath I hated segregation so that all I wanted to do was to get away from segregation. When I graduated from high school, my teachers …let me back up and say that my generation of high school kids were the beneficiaries of probably the post-First World War college trained colored teachers. So, while I was in high school, we began to

Page 15
get a lot of Howard University graduates and Wilberforce graduates also Talledega, and this was probably the first time that the schools were actually being almost fully staffed with college trained teachers.
So, we had a large contingent of Wilberforce graduates there. When I graduated from high school with honors, the Wilberforce Club got together and bestowed a scholarship upon me to go to Wilberforce and I turned it down.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I see.
PAULI MURRAY:
No more segregation for me. I was fifteen, but that I knew.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Turning it down, did it have anything to do with persons in your family or other persons in that school that influenced you during your youth? I recall the remark that you made about the family and that was that there was pride on both sides of the Fitzgerald family, "but my greatest inheritance perhaps was a dogged persistence and a granite quality of endurance in the face of calamity." Now, these kinds of strengths that you felt from the Fitzgerald part of your family, I mean, were there particular persons that had such enormous influence on you within the family that they would make you feel some inner compulsion to move towards something that was not segregated also, or were they more the teachers who had been in separate institutions?
PAULI MURRAY:
I suspect that it must have been kind of a painful decision for me to make, to turn down a scholarship to Wilberforce, because so many of the teachers of the Wilberforce Club, who were my teachers, were my favorite teachers. I loved these people and they had been '

Page 16
tremendous role models for me. They were the first young teachers, you know, young and bright and full of life and really opened up new worlds for me. So, the fact that I didn't want to go to Wilberforce, for no other reason than that Wilberforce was going to be a segregated school, since the people that I liked best were from Wilberforce, says something about this deep internal thing about segregation. Now, remember that my great-grandparents, Thomas Fitzgerald and Sarah Anne Burton Fitzgerald, were an interracial marriage and so, segregation was something that tended to split what to me was my roots. You will also recall in Proud Shoes that I talked about families being split, some families disappearing into the white race. So, this whole business of separation was something that was deeply personal to me because it split my own family. You asked me about color differences. Color differences operated not only between an individual and the local community, but they also operated within a family. I recall, for example, that I told you there were six of us, six little Murrays. On the one visit that I made back to Baltimore, when I was about nine, it was very clear that at least four of us could go downtown to the movies on Saturdays, the white movie houses.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And sit wherever you wanted to.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, and two of us couldn't. I happened to be one of the two and that says something to you about why I would become a crusader for civil rights. I don't think that I thought that in those days, but I'm sure that these experiences coming to me out from the intimacy of the family made an even greater impact than they would had

Page 17
they been from the society per se.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Did any members of your family, the family with which you lived, or the teachers who had come from Wilberforce, understand this need to at least attempt to have broader opportunities or more choices, the search for options, the move away from segregation? Were they hurt, did they try to get you to accept the Wilberforce scholarship?
PAULI MURRAY:
I imagine that my teachers from Wilberforce were temporarily disappointed, but my recollection is that they followed with interest my career wherever I was and if they were disappointed, this was only a temporary kind of thing. As for my family, Aunt Pauline, and I bless her memory for this, from the time that I was very, very small, allowed me to make my own choices and suffer the consequences. I remember that this first visit to Baltimore that I told you about, she wanted to get me a winter outfit and she was now in Baltimore where there were more styles, a big kind of Middle-Atlantic city, and Hub in Baltimore was the store where she took me to buy my winter outfit. What did I want? A chinchilla coat with a red flannel lining and a funny little Tyrolean hat, it was probably from the boys department. She let me buy this conglomeration. [Laughter] And I had to wear it and no matter who laughed at me, that was my choice. Well, that was Aunt Pauline, this was the way she trained me. [Laughter]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I can imagine you in that outfit. [Laughter]
PAULI MURRAY:
After World War I, somebody gave me a GI's overseas hat. Did you ever see these big World War I hats, big, broad brimmed with a tall stovepipe?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes.

Page 18
PAULI MURRAY:
Somebody gave me one of those hats and I loved it. It had something like a cord or elastic that you could put under your chin, with the braid and so forth. I'm sure that I looked just like Little Abie because the things would come down right over my ears, you know. I wore it everywhere except to church. That was the one place that Aunt Pauline drew the line. So, there was a certain comical quality about this child and a certain determination to do certain things and Aunt Pauline tended to let me make my own choice. So, she let me make the choice of what college. And she would support me.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, what made you have a broader conception of your possibilities …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I was asking you about what made you have this broader conception of the possibilities for you socially or economically. Most people tended to assume that it was a great opportunity if they could go to any college, even if it were segregated. Did it have something to do with the fact that you had a very mixed heritage, or did it have something to do with the character of your grandfather, the character of Aunt Pauline?
PAULI MURRAY:
I think that it had a lot to do with all of these things. I think …and I'm not even sure that this was conscious at the time, I think that my grandfather played …well, obviously, a person who would wait until she had more or less made her own name and then sit down and write a book about her grandfather, says something about the impact on her life. He was kind of an enigma to me. That is, I was

Page 19
very ambivalent about him. I resented him and admired him. Here was the impact of this person. I'm sure that this was maybe an unconscious kind of force that may have been moulding. Aunt Pauline's understanding to allow me to be free to think my way through things and make choices, and then support me as far as she could, I think, was another factor. A third factor was something as small as this, I mean, as seemingly insignificant as this, but it was very important to me. One of my favorite teachers came back to school in the fall with one of these long coat-like sweaters that they used to wear in those days, and it had a "C" on the sleeve, this was some college letter, I asked her what the "C" stood for and she said, "Columbia University." I asked her about Columbia and she told me a little bit. Now, what I didn't know was that she had probably gone to summer school at Columbia's teacher's college and bought this and put it on her sweater, but just this little bit was something that opened my vision so that I wanted to go to Columbia. That's all that I knew. All that I knew was that Columbia was in New York City. I didn't know that Columbia didn't take girls, that girls had to go to Barnard. [Laughter] All that I knew was that there was a Columbia University and my teacher had been there and that was where I wanted to go.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, had she been one of your favorite teachers?
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, she had been one of my favorite teachers and I admired her tremendously.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I see.
Now, are there any other matters that you think are significant about your childhood experiences and your ancestry that we ought to talk about before we move on to New York?

Page 20
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, I want to, particularly in light of some of the experiences of young blacks today, I want to make one or two comments about identity. I am not aware of the kind of identity crisis for many of us in my generation as has been suggested about young blacks of the present generation. I think that we had a very strong sense, and Ralph Ellison says the same thing and he's my contemporary, he grew up in Oklahoma where there were segregated schools. We had a very stong sense of our identity. Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar, these were very significant people in our lives. We had no self-consciousness about reciting Paul Laurence Dunbar in dialect and as a matter of fact, the person who could really recite Paul Lawrence Dunbar with all the flair of his dialect, was considered a very talented, gifted person. I remember my classmate, Betty Hicks, I don't know whether she's retired now, but Betty Hicks worked for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and Betty was really a genius at reciting Paul Laurence Dunbar. I've often thought that if someone could have discovered her when she was young, she would have made a great dramatic actress. But what am I saying? We did have this sense of racial identity. I remember in our family, finding these little pamphlets, "Thirty Years of Freedom," and then a second little pamphlet, "Fifty Years of Freedom," and these were little playlets that had been written up for community groups to dramatize. One must have referred to about 1890, or maybe 1895 and the other one must have been 1910 or '15.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Are you saying that despite the problem and the harm of

Page 21
segregation that also there were many things of value that came out of the fact that black people were so close to each other and was there in fact something even comfortable about that black community, that community that was totally black?
PAULI MURRAY:
I am sure that there were many positives about it, as I think, for example, of the social life and the community life, I think of White Rock Baptist Church, St. Joseph Baptist Church …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
A.M.E., the A.M.E. Church?
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, the St. Joseph A.M.E. Church, Mother Zion A.M.E. Church. I think of many kinds of community activities that took place in these community centers, so to speak. And these were comfortable. The point at which life became unbearable was in the contact with the white world, in the sense of business contacts, or going into the community and being made to feel inferior by all the signs and symbols and the etiquette, the racial etiquette in terms of being called by your first name or people addressing adult Negroes as "Auntie" or "Uncle" and maybe "boy" and this kind of thing. In the relationships between the superiors, the school official superiors and the teachers, and since I had so many relatives who were teachers, I was very aware of the hierarchy of the relationships and the interracial relationships in the school system, the superintendent or supervisor who comes in and calls your teacher by her first name. This, I think I talk about in Proud Shoes. So, the hatred of segregation was not hatred of community life among Negroes, it was finding barriers that hemmed you in, that you were not free to go and come as you chose. Does that make sense to you?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes. And in fact, would I be taking liberties if I said

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that you had a sense that people were building a sense of community and that this was something that would happen regardless of the outer environment, that people would continue to associate with each other and be proud of their heritage and have a sense of identity?
PAULI MURRAY:
Now, I must say this. In my house, I always heard about the race, "You can't keep this race down. This race is going to show the world yet." The race, the race. So, I called my aunts "race women." There was that sense of loyalty and dedication to the advancement of the race. So, there wasn't a negative feeling about my racial identity in my house and yet, this strange tension between acute awareness of a mixed ancestry and this devotion to "the race."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
But since the race was so much of everything …
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
…and you have always lived with this complexity and these paradoxes, it was something that I guess we all learned, to not only live with but to enjoy and grow from that experience. Now, tell me about going to New York. You were on your way to Columbia but you ended up at Hunter.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. Well, I said that I wanted to go to Columbia. So, Aunt Pauline took me to New York and she carried me to Columbia and I am sure that the Columbia registrar snickered and sent me over to Barnard. Aunt Pauline trotted with me down the street and over to Barnard. I'm sure that they asked Aunt Pauline a few well directed questions and knew clearly that we were not of the financial means to afford an education at Barnard and so, they said to her …and I'm sure with great desire to be helpful, they said, "Well, where you

Page 23
probably want to go and need to go is Hunter College, because Hunter College is a free city university." So, Aunt Pauline took me over to Hunter College and there I discovered that I had to have certain entrance requirements. Three years of one language and two years of another and four years of English and Hillside Park High School in Durham at the time was only an eleven grade school. In other words, only three years of senior high. It obviously added the fourth year some years thereafter, but I had only really had eleven years of public school. And so, what it amounted to was that they were referring me to go back to high school and complete the twelfth year and at the same time, if possible, to make up anywhere from one to two years of requirements that I would need for Hunter, Hunter in those days having a very high entrance requirements and a tremendous reputation for turning out future teachers. So, Aunt Pauline's cousin, you would probably know the sisters Adeline Reynolds Spaulding and Agnes Reynolds Mauney. Well, Adeline's oldest maternal aunt lived in Richmond Hill, Long Island and this aunt loved my mother Agnes. There was a great affinity between the two of them and she had also lost her one daughter. She had three sons, but she had lost her little daughter, I guess in childbirth …not childbirth, in infancy …and the combination of her devotion to my beloved, but departed, mother and the fact that I was about the age of her daughter and the fact that she was also devoted to my Aunt Pauline, she volunteered to take me and let me stay with her and go to high school and finish off this year in order to qualify myself for Hunter. Then, of course, we discovered that you had to be a legal resident of the city of New York in order to go to

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Hunter College. So, she and her husband went to the extent of legally adopting me, through all the legal steps of legally adopting me in order that I might be a legal resident of New York, in order to qualify for Hunter College.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
So, in one year then, you finished your requirements?
PAULI MURRAY:
I finished all these requirements in one year, did about a year and a half in one year and entered Hunter not the next year, but there was a year in between. That year in between, I came back to Durham in order to work to save money and help Aunt Pauline with the expenses of the house and to save money to go back to Hunter. That was the year that I worked at what was then called Bankers Fire Insurance Company. I don't know what it is called now, but it is the leading Negro fire insurance company in Durham that is now housed in the North Carolina Mutual building.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You were typing there?
PAULI MURRAY:
I was a typist, I was a junior secretary-stenographer.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, you attended Hunter College and were there any particular people at Hunter College that influenced you in regard to your major, or did you just decide that you wanted to write and were interested in journalism? How did you move to that point?
PAULI MURRAY:
I had always had an interest in writing. I had been writing on tablets from the time that I was a little tot. I even wrote a novel by the time that I was thirteen or fourteen. A horrible thing. [Laughter]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
What happened to the novel? You've hidden it in your files?

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PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. [Laughter] Oh, it even got published …Louis Austin, who was a character in himself and it's too bad that you didn't have a chance both to meet him and document his life, but you recognize the name, the late editor of the Carolina Times. What is it, "The Truth Unbridled."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Everyone talks about Louis Austin.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, well, it was one of my first thoughts …I worked for the Carolina Times for awhile as "office boy," custodian, sweeper, cleaner, editor, and during that period, he published and ran in serial form this lurid little novel that I wrote.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
What was the name of it?
PAULI MURRAY:
The Angel of the Desert, I think it was and it was the most stereotyped thing. The heroine, wouldn't you know, was blonde with blue eyes, golden hair, you know, a real little sort of Evangeline or whatever you want to call her, a Little Eva. The wicked sister was a brunette with dark hair.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, when did you write this?
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, when I was about fifteen. [Laughter] What I'm trying to say is that I had this sense of wanting to write and actually in college, I decided that I didn't want to do anything but write. So, I didn't take any of the ed courses and I avoided all the psych courses, I took none of the courses that would prepare me for teaching, but all of the courses that I thought dealt with literature, such as "Creative Writing," "Short Stories," "Shakespeare," this kind of thing. Now, there were several individuals at Hunter was really made all the

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difference in the world for me. One was Lulu Burton, Lulu Burton Bramwell she was when she died. She was my freshman classmate. She was a Negro. She was as bright as a button, wrote beautifully, spoke beautifully, was on a level with her classroom peers. Now remember, I'm a little southern child who has come up from the South with atrocious English. Despite a certain amount of background and whatnot, still atrocious grammar and constantly feeling the gap between my educational level and that of these bright kids at Hunter college. Because in those days, the New York City high schools were supposed to be the first or second best in the country. So, I could feel this tremendous gap. Well, here was a girl of color who was right up there with her classmates and think of what this must have done to restore my sense of …the best thing that I can say is "group worth." In other words, all the doubts that I might have about my capacity or equality or whatnot on racial grounds, were cancelled out by seeing someone just like myself who was as competent as everybody else around me. This, I might say, would be the one big hurdle that a child coming out of a segregated school system would have to make. That child didn't know whether he or she was equal to his white counterparts, because there had never been any opportunity for him to find out. So, way back in the back of his or her mind was always, "Have I got it?" So, in college, which would be the first, or even in high school, in my high school experience in my twelfth year, I would be somewhat preoccupied with whether or not I had the same ability as whites did. So, this was where Lulu was such a tremendous experience for me. Moreover, she loved English, she loved

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literature, she was an English major. She wrote poetry and introduced me to a great deal of poetry. We read Langston Hughes together, Countee Cullen. She began to introduce me to both black and white poets. So, I owe her a great deal for the awakening of my …of another stage, a more mature part of my literary interest.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
As you spoke about this awareness, something else came to my mind. This is certainly the period in which there is a possibility for hostility. During this period in New York City, of course, and what was happening in the United States, was economic depression, really, the New Deal had not come to the forefront and you are at a city college where you are not with the elite, certainly, who are not affected by this. Did you find a great deal of hostility from classmates, from white classmates? Did you find them simply not associating with you or did you find teachers who were hostile towards you, or anything such as that? If for no other reason than the simple economic competition.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. The first thing that I want to say is that Hunter College was a girl's school, a woman's college. In those days, it was called "the poor girl's Radcliffe." Out of 7,000 women …Hunter College was known to be the largest women's college in the world, out of 7,000 women, only about 45 of us were colored. So that we were not …there were not enough of us, we stuck out, we were not quite a novelty, but we were not in any competitive sense, so to speak. My memories of Hunter are very pleasant. There were people who sought me out, and I am looking for one of them now, who made me feel like a person. Also, don't forget that it was a day school, a commuter school. It was not a campus and therefore, one probably would miss many of the

Page 28
incidents or opportunities for exclusion that you would get on a college campus. We used to say that our campus was the size of a postage stamp. One didn't expect to be a part of the sororities. One could aspire to be a member of an honorary fraternity, which I was, Sigma Tau Delta which is the English honorary fraternity. There were two or three rare people who were very meaningful to me.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Let the record tell that Dr. Murray has a copy of her annual yearbook from Hunter College, 1933, that includes pictures of her classmates and herself and indicates that she was in an honorary society.
PAULI MURRAY:
Ruth Goldstein …note the caliber. Ruth M. Goldstein. She was honorary society, Phi Beta Kappa, editor of Echo, which was the school literary magazine, vice-president of the Makeup Box, which was the school theatrical group, and you can just see this long list of credentials. She graduated summa cum laude. Ruth just retired from teaching high school two or three years ago and we are still in contact. She was one of my favorite people in college. She is a great editor now, today, but she gave me my first break. She published my poetry and she published an article that I wrote.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, she published this in school papers?
PAULI MURRAY:
In school papers, yes and I will always remember her with just great love and affection and admiration. I was looking for her picture, a big picture of her, but it is the same picture as this, the one that I showed you.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Well, the honorary society that you mentioned that both you and Ruth belonged to, now this had to do with your gradepoint average or what?

Page 29
PAULI MURRAY:
It was the national English honorary fraternity.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Oh, English.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. I presume that it might have had to do with your gradepoint average and the fact that you were an English major and you couldn't get to be an English major at Hunter without making a certain minimum average. The first two years, you were not allowed to even declare as an English major until your junior year. You had to take a backup major. My backup major was history and if you made the grade and were admitted to the English department, then your backup major became your minor.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, the name of this society was?
PAULI MURRAY:
Sigma Tau Delta. I think that's the sequence. Sigma Tau Delta. There were several teachers who inspired me at Hunter. And these were white teachers, now. One was Catherine Riegart, who is now retired and living, I think, in Florida.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And how would you spell that?
PAULI MURRAY:
R-I-E-G-A-R-T. Catherine M. Riegart. She was a young teacher, a comparatively young Ph.D., when I met her. I met her in my freshmen class and she gave us weekly themes, essays. You know what I mean, what freshman composition is. And every week, they came back, "D", "D,", "D."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And I assume that "D" is the same as "D" for us now? That's poor.
PAULI MURRAY:
Very poor. And evidently, she must have seen something in me, so for Christmas vacation, she invited me and Lulu Burton to her apartment for a tea, in the Village [Greenwich Village]. I had never seen anything like this before. I had never seen a modern …what do you call it,

Page 30
a sort of artistic apartment, efficiency apartment with all kinds of bric-a-brac that she had from her travels. She had taught in the Girls American College in Turkey or somewhere like that and she used to laugh and say that she lost her college education crossing the Bosporus, which meant that the boat with all of her college notebooks and textbooks went down to the bottom. [Laughter] She had these marvelous little tea cakes, which I had never seen before, you know, the kind in different shapes and covered with chocolate and she served tea in a nice little tray and all of this was just an entirely unknown world to me. In a sense, her recognition of us as persons, some message came across to me, what it was, I don't know. Those themes began to be "C-", "C", "C-plus", "B-", and the last one was an "A." The last essay was an essay on my grandfather. I got a "B" for the course and that essay was the germ of Proud Shoes.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I don't want to be a cynic, but I do feel like I have to ask if you think there was something that she sensed, even though she was giving you "D's", prior to this period of time in which you had tea and talked and were in her apartment, or was it something that she sensed after that afternoon together?
PAULI MURRAY:
I think that she saw in my work, she probably saw in my work, flashes of ability, but abominable mechanics. It was my grammar and probably my spelling and my punctuation that was so poor. I think that she was probably intrigued by this youngster, that was such a complex of …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Communicating a lot but not having the skill to do it in an effective way.

Page 31
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I see. Did she make copious comments on your themes?
PAULI MURRAY:
She must have, and I must have …I mean, the fact that there was this steady development must have meant that I was responding to her encouragement, you see. Remember that this is many years ago, but the two things that stand out in my mind, are this being invited to tea and this steady progress from "D's" up to the "A", and the fact that this essay was about my grandfather, and probably the first time that I felt free enough to talk about something that was meaningful to me and this in turn, evoked her recognition that maybe there was something creative in this child.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
That's beautiful.
PAULI MURRAY:
One other experience I had in college I think is worth recording. We had a marvelous young teacher in anthropology by the name of Dorothy Keur. I could have completely missed up on anthropology but I had a very dear friend who was a science major and loved anthropology and she recommended that I take it and so, I took it as an elective and Dr. Keur, for our field work, had us go once a week over to the Hall of Man at the Museum of Natural History over on 87th Street across the park. It was a marvelous hike because Hunter was at 68th and Park Avenue.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Across the park?
PAULI MURRAY:
Across the park. In those days, there was no problem whatsoever. You could sleep in the park. I have slept in the park. We would hike down to the park and sleep over night, but remember, I am talking about over forty years ago, pre-World War II. We would spend once a week in the Hall of Man, particularly with African

Page 32
villages and village life and art and artifacts and American Indians. Now, I have touched upon the other two streams of my ancestry, growing up in a kind of European dominated a society and my American Indian ancestry and my African ancestry being more or less suppressed. This experience in anthropology did more for me, I think, than maybe any other course in college, because first of all, it showed me a comparative view of man and how man responds to the environment in which he lives, to build his homes, his art, his institutions and whatnot and I could see the parallels between American Indians and Africans. Secondly, in a sense for me, it removed them from the column of what I needed to have any sense of being embarassed about.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
That's interesting. This Professor Keur, do you have any idea with whom she studied or what …not all anthropologists took that kind of approach at that period.
PAULI MURRAY:
She was a marvelous person. She's still alive and just recently …oh, she retired, I guess, a number of years ago, but I think that she may have studied with Ruth Benedict, I don't know. She studied at Columbia, I'm fairly sure. Her husband was an archeologist, they spent a lot of time in the West …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
On what they called digs?
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And field trips.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. And she had a sense and she transmitted to me a sense of the unity of mankind and I've never lost that. This may make me a loss to militant racial identification, but this sense of unity within mankind, this sense of seeing mankind as mankind …

Page 33
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, it is not always the case that college students take all of their courses seriously. Did you take all of your courses seriously, or were there a few that you decided to really study and others that you just kind of let slip by or something like that, was it the interest in your background that made you work hard on this anthropology or did you approach all of your subjects in that manner?
PAULI MURRAY:
I'm sure that I did not because I have a college record that ranges from "A" to "C". Part of this was because I was a working student and …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Where were you working?
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, I worked at the Alice Foote McDougal Coffee Shops, I was a dinner waitress and then …I was a freshman, my freshman year was the year of the stock crash, October, 1929. I bounced around from job to job, waiting tables here, washing dishes here and running elevators here …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You were lucky to find any job.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. Yes, I was always working.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You don't know how lucky that was. [Laughter] Now, did you stay out on Long Island?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, I had moved to the YWCA in Harlem by that time and for a lot of my college career, I lived at the YWCA, West 137th Street, Emma Ransom House, it was called in those days. I'm trying to think of the question that you asked me …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I was asking you whether you approached all your studies in a serious manner.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. As I said, they went from "A" to "C". If a

Page 34
teacher was boring, I was just as apt to make a "C" in a course. If she was challenging, I was just as apt to make an "A" in the course. If the course challenged me to be creative, I was apt to make an "A". If the course was of subject matter that I thought was interesting, I passed the course even though I only made "D". For example, this second half of that anthropology course was a highly technical course on evolution, you know, the various classes, the whole story of evolution and this was highly technical. I could barely, I had no science background for it, but I happened to make it through that course with a "D". For me, that "D" was like an "A-plus", because I really …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Because you made it through.
PAULI MURRAY:
That's right. Now, when it came to educational psychology, I couldn't have cared less. There were just certain courses that I wasn't interested in. History, I liked.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You said that was your "just-in-case-major."
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. So that turned out to be my minor. I loved classics, which would be really the history of culture. Apparently, I guess that one might say that I had a pull toward the humanities, although I would not have known how to define them in those ways. I certainly had no interest in math, possibly less in economics, but I was a good political science student. So, it would range between the social sciences and the humanities.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, you attended Hunter College and then after being graduated in 1933 as an English major, nearly a decade elapsed before you made your decision to go to law school. During that period, you

Page 35
became what I consider an accomplished poet, after having read some of your poetry, and you were inspired by such poets as Stephen Vincet Benet and Langston Hughes…
PAULI MURRAY:
And Countee Cullen. And what's the West Indian … Claude McKay.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, Claude McKay. I take it that you knew some of these people.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, I knew Langston and I knew Countee.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, your poetry was of a varied character, such that one might infer …and this is, I repeat, inference, moments of dissatisfaction, disappointment, doubt, but also a fierce determination and insistance upon some sort of action, demand for solutions or some resolution to problems that you saw within not only your own society, but perhaps even in a sense of the world as you knew it within the anthropological sense. In 1933, you wrote a poem …
PAULI MURRAY:
Me?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes. I'm not going to read the whole poem, but …
PAULI MURRAY:
It's come back to haunt me. [Laughter]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I'll read just a few excerpts. "Youth, 1933". "I sing of youth, imperious, glorious, dissatisfied, unslaked, untaught, unkempt youth. Youth who admits neither God nor country, youth proud and eager, proud of its broken heads, eager to martyr itself for any and all causes. On they go, this youth, the world over, headed for chaos, with wrangling and smiling, bursting all bonds, junking all ideals, shouting in chorus, ‘We protest. We demand,’ Having one weapon, they wield it unsparingly. Youth, hotheadedness, energy, passion. Make way, you slackards, money hounds, party guns. We are

Page 36
your leaders. Trust or outlaw us. We are the youth of the world's New Deal."
PAULI MURRAY:
That's one of the biggest pieces of schizophrenia I think I've ever heard. [Laughter] Because you recognize that I am standing off looking at myself as well as my generation.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I also want to read part of another poem written in the same year, you might be able to guess this one, too, "The Newer Cry."
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, yes.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And then I would like you to just simply talk about these two poems and …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
In my paperback, "The Newer Cry" is on page 55.
PAULI MURRAY:
Do you know that the editor died last week …I mean the publisher. My agent for this died in November and the publisher died last week, Bill Atkin, President of Silvermine Publishers.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I'm going to read another excerpt from a 1933 poem, from "The Newer Cry," and then I was asking you to simply comment on these two poems. You've already begun to comment on how "Youth" represented your standing back and looking at yourself and you call it, in a sense, schizophrenia, but I would like to juxtapose an aspect of "The Newer Cry." "Let us grow strong, but never in our strength forget the weaker brother. Let us fight, but only when we must fight. Let us work, for therein lies our salvation. Let us conquer the soil, for therein lies our sustenance. Let us conquer the soul, for therein lies our power. Let us march in steady unbroken beat, for therein lies

Page 37
our progress. Let us never cease to laugh, to live, to love, and to grow." That also was written in New York in 1933.
PAULI MURRAY:
I'm sure that both of these poems were probably written at the switchboard of Hunter College after I graduated. I had the rather dubious distinction of being the first Negro to have been employed in anything but a broom and mop job. It was quite a step forward for Hunter College to employ me as the evening switchboard operator. I sat there at the evening switchboard and wrote poetry between calls. "Youth, 1933" is one and I think "The Newer Cry" is probably the second. "Youth" was expressing my sense of identification with the whole class of youth, the world of black, white, international Communist youth, European, wherever. "The Newer Cry" was expressing my racial identity. You will note that in both of these poems, I am troubled by a sense of the violence of revolution, the destructiveness, and I don't know whether you've noticed this, but it runs all through my poetry of this period. I don't know whether you've read "To Poets Who Have Rebelled."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes.
PAULI MURRAY:
It's the same thing, "protest if you must, but at the same time, let your throat ache double with the cry of beauty here and now." Here is a child that was brought up essentially close to nature and essentially, I think, with great freedom and a sense of love, being surrounded by loving people in one's environment. And never really relinquishing this longing for love in however a way you wished to describe it. Love as the great instrument of change and whatnot. I think that it comes out perhaps more in "The Newer Cry" than it does in "Youth, 1933." Because

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in "Youth, 1933" I'm really talking about my contemporaries, the young Communists, the young Socialists, the young radicals. In "The Newer Cry" I'm talking particularly, I guess, about the protest literature that is being written and so much of it is so heavily weighed with the protest of being a black person in America at this time. For me, you can see that always responding to challenge. You say I can't and I'll show you I can even if I die trying. This was my attitude toward America and so was it Claude McKay's. You know, "I must confess I loved this cultured hell which tests my youth, although she feeds me bread of bitterness and sticks her tiger's tooth into my …", whatever, "I must confess I love this cultured hell." Well, this has been my attitude toward America. I love America and whatever she hands me, I'm handing her back with, I hope, a championship quality. So, so many of my heroes, my racial heroes, have been the champions, the Jackie Robinsons, the people who climbed over and said, "I'll show you."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
For the sake of all those who may in the future listen to this and not be able to understand, perhaps because of the circumstances under which they listen to it, let's go into a little bit more about "I love America." You are saying, "I love America" for a particular kind of reason. Was it really America as it was actually, with violence and with all the problems of society, all the injustices, but can you explain more about what it was?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, I mean by saying that "I love America," that first, it is home. No one can be more native to America than America's black population, because America's black population biologically

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is all of the great streams of mankind that make up America. The first American, the indigenous American, by this time there has been so much recirculation of genes that we are all mixed up. We all have Indian, European and African ancestry. Secondly, traditionally, black Americans go back to the very beginnings of America. Our blood and our sweat and our tears and our memories are built into the country and I maintain that Africa has already made her contribution to America, that America is as she is today, culturally, because of the presence of black Americans. The impact upon speech, the impact upon customs in the South. America would have been a different country without the presence of blacks.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, even though it was involuntary, it was something that left an indelible imprint upon America.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And of course, as you said, that as much as we are built into it, we built it.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. All of this, then, plus America's dreams. Some people might call it her pretensions. I want to see America be what she says she is and I consider it part of my responsibility to do that. It's a kind of patriotism …well, let me give you a symbol of it. When I went down to look at the archives, to look at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States for the first time, enshrined in the Archives, behind those glass cases, with its honor guard, just as I entered, here was a uniformed black American standing as the guard of honor to protect these two hallowed documents, from the point of view of our history. To me, there was such great symbolism in that, that it was black America who was safeguarding the

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true meaning of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Well, poetic people tend to deal in symbols, but it just happened that this is the way I saw it.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Symbolism and perhaps irony, also.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
For the most part, we have been the ones who have always most greatly and most fervently …
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, it is that kind of patriotism that I'm talking about, America being what she proclaims herself to be. Be what you are supposed to be.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, in the context of that, before you went to law school, what kinds of activities were you participating in? These are the years after the summer of '33.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, first I worked for the National Urban League as a special field secretary for its house organ, which was then called Opportunity Magazine. Then …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Was Elmer Carter still …
PAULI MURRAY:
Elmer Carter, I think by that time, I think that he was then editor of the magazine, but the late Mr. Lester B. Granger, who just died several weeks ago, became the business manager of Opportunity Magazine and I worked immediately under him for that year that I worked with them. Now, this is about '33, '34 and by this time, we are really in the middle of the Depression. I got …ultimately, I got a job on WPA, first working in remedial reading and then switching over to the Workers Education Project. The Workers Education Project was a tremendous intellectual experience for me, because it brought me into

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contact with the young, radical intellectuals of that period, young Communists, young Socialists, young Trotskyites, young Republicans young Democrats,, it was a highly politicized project. Those were the days when organization, when collective bargaining for labor was very important, unionization of black and white workers, black and white unemployed together, seeking to preserve WPA, which was the only basis of employment in jobs that many of us had in those days, a much larger, a much more generalized condition of poverty among blacks and whites and unemployment among blacks and whites then that today. So, a much closer feeling of solidarity in large areas, rather than the kind of …these were the days before the suburbs, the days before the inner cities being concentrated in terms of blacks, and days in which labor was the out group, in a sense, and struggling for recognition. So, there was much more of a climate of solidarity, interracial solidarity within the radical-liberal part of the population, than we got, say, after the sixties. All of this began to point me toward law.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, while you were doing all these things and meeting with radical intellectuals, did you maintain close contact with your relatives, with your family, your extended family, and your friends in North Carolina and your friends at Hunter? How did this affect those relationships?
PAULI MURRAY:
I would come back and forth, but obviously, I suppose my ideas would tend to be more radical than those of the community that I left. So much so, that when I, in 1938 when I applied to the University of North Carolina, this was met with consternation by my family, my immediate family, primarily because they were afraid that they would be lynched, or that the house would burn down, I think it was real fear,

Page 42
not disagreement with me on principle, and I think that by that time, I was perhaps so far from a … I don't want to say, "sedate," but by that time, I had become a completely emancipated mind, let me say. Fairly independent and no longer willing to come back and be a part of the social milieu of the little community I left. I mean, it was definitely almost "you can't go home again."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, there is another aspect of Pauli Murray, the former English major now, that would seem to foretell, or from which one might infer a special direction and character of activism, certainly these activities in which you were involved before entering law school did that, a Pauli Murray as a mature adult that I think tends to be revealed in two very short poems, which I'll just read because they are very brief. One called "Quarrel." "Two ants at bay on the curved stem of an apple are insufficient cause to fell the tree." And "Color Trouble." "If you dislike me just because my face has more sun than your has, then when you see me, turn and run, but do not try to buy the sun." These are written in 1937 and 1938. Now, there are three major incidents prior to your entering Howard University Law School in 1941 that come to mind in connection with these poems and in connection with the work that you did after you left Hunter. Although documentation is available on these, I would like you to discuss briefly for the sake of the record, what you consider the salient issues involved in the following three activities between 1938 and 1941. First of all, one that you mentioned already, in 1938, your attempt to enter the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, unsuccessfully challenging the exclusion of blacks from graduate school and professional schools at

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UNC and blacks, of course, not being admitted until 1951 despite the Gaines decision in 1938. The second is the Petersburg, Virginia bus incident involving your arrest and conviction for resisting segregation on an interstate bus, and the third is becoming field secretary of the Workers Defense League in relationship to the case of Odell Waller, a black sharecropper convicted of first degree murder of his white landlord by a white poll tax jury. We can go back and do those in any order that you would like, chronologically if you like, or in reverse order.
PAULI MURRAY:
What was the first one that you mentioned?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
The first one is UNC and not being admitted.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, all of this, these activities, took place, I think, in a highly politicized climate. Remember that I am being influenced by the whole radical intellectual climate of those days. The organization of labor and the struggle, and I participated in those struggles as a volunteer labor organizer and on the picket lines. I even picketed the Amsterdam News with my dear friend, Ted Posten, because there was a lockout …now this is a black newspaper locking out black editorial writers. Well, I was on the mass picket line and got my first arrest, got arrested in 1935, I think it was. Well, what I am trying to suggest was that out of this atmosphere of struggle, curiously enough, my militance on race growing out of my exposure to labor struggles and my becoming interested in this. Remember that I talked about labor education and I got interested in the whole background of labor and took off for about six months and went to Brookwood Labor College.

Page 44
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, where is Brookwood Labor College?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, it is no more …whenever I had a concern, I always had to go to school over my concern. I couldn't just read books, I had to find a school and go to school. Brookwood Labor College was in Katona, New York, and it was set up by the American Federation of Labor way back in the first or second decade of the twentieth century, in 1936 it was being supported in part by the AFL and maybe the Committee for Industrial Organization which later became the CIO. This was where members of trade unions, who couldn't afford to go to college, but who represented leadership potential and ability, would go and get courses in labor journalism, courses in labor economics, in history, you know, this kind of thing. Well, I took myself up there and went to labor college. That was the year, I believe, that Earl Robinson composed "Ballad for Americans," which you recognize in terms of Paul Robeson singing "Ballad for Americans …"
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, Paul Robeson.
PAULI MURRAY:
I heard one of the first performances of "Ballad for Americans." That was the same year in which the general strike of the United Automobile Workers broke out, 1936-37, I'm not sure, but right in that period and they had the first sit-ins in Detroit and we labor students at Brookwood Labor College became volunteer helpers for the strike in plants at Tarrytown, New York and we would put out strike newspapers and do things of that sort. That was the same year in which the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organized to fight, American volunteers, to fight for the Loyalist government in Spain, and almost the whole class I was in at Brookwood Labor College, almost en masse volunteered and went to Spain. Very, very few of them returned. You

Page 45
can think of the impact of that experience on me. All of this is happening, the whole concept of freedom and dignity and I am now beginning to relate this to being a Negro in America and therefore, perhaps in some way, I was catapulted faster into a radical stance. Maybe I jumped a generation or something of the sort, as a result of this kind of hothouse of international labor, political, radical atmosphere in which I …to which I was being exposed.
I think the key fact, the thing that made me really apply to the University of North Carolina …well, here again was a convergence of factors, my ostensible reason, and it always seemed to be this way, that I had some family problem, some personal problem that I was trying to work out and what seemed very logical to me, I then began to follow up on. Of course, the minute that I began to follow up on what was very logical to me, I began to run into road blocks. My aunt really wanted me to come home.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
This is Aunt Pauline?
PAULI MURRAY:
Aunt Pauline and Aunt Sally, Now, they were getting older and my problem was that I wanted to get some more education. I wanted to do some graduate work. Well, wouldn't it make great sense to come home and commute to the University of North Carolina and get a graduate degree at the University of North Carolina, either in social science or in law and that would allow me to fulfil my family responsibilities in Durham.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
We find that after the futile attempt of Thomas Hocutt under the auspices of the NAACP to enter UNC School of Pharmacy, Pauli Murray, because of a number of reasons, which you stated, some having

Page 46
to do with family, sees it as a logical thing to do to enter UNC in social science or law school. So, in November of 1938, you apply for a catalog and an application and thereafter, what occurs?
PAULI MURRAY:
They sent me an application blank and they had written into the printed application blank, race and religion. This has been typed in so that it stands out apart from a normal form. I think I answered it but may have said, "But what difference does it make?" Obviously tongue in cheek. In due course, I got back a letter from Dr. Frank Graham, who was the then president of the University of North Carolina, saying, "I'm sorry, but the constitution and the laws of the state of North Carolina prohibit me from admitting one of your race to the law school."3 Either the day after or two days after I received this letter, down came the Supreme Court decision in the Lloyd Gaines case. Now, the Lloyd Gaines case decided in December of 1938 was the beginning of the long read back from Plessy vs. Ferguson, the "separate but equal" decision. Lloyd Gaines, in the educational field, was the start of the long road back to the 1954 decision and what it said was: A state has a responsibility to educate its residents. It cannot shift responsibility to other states by giving out-of-state scholarships. It must give substantially equal facilities to its colored citizens as well as the white or must admit them to the existing institutions. It went on to say that this is a "personal right" and in a sense it does not matter if only one person is seeking it. This, of course, you can imagine …I immediately wrote back to the University of North Carolina and said, "Ah, but here is the Lloyd Gaines case." The story is that, the legend is that Dr. Frank Graham sent my

Page 47
application down to the legislature. Remember that this is now December. The legislature meets around January 5, 1939 something of the sort and says, "Look, what are we going to do with this? Here's the Lloyd Gaines case and here's this application." Presumably, it was the bouncing of the application down to the legislature and the problems that this raised for the legislature, "Look, we can't fool around with this, the issue is upon us," that made it newsworthy and it must have leaked up in that way, because I knew nothing about it and my family knew nothing. I don't even know if I had …maybe I had told my family. I guess that I had.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Since their house was about to be burned, perhaps, you probably mentioned to them. [Laughter]
PAULI MURRAY:
And it suddenly burst out over the radio, you know, and came to be sort of national news. But it was this "unidentified Negress." [Laughter] It's in the headlines, an "unidentified Negress makes application to the University of North Carolina." This correspondence went back and forth for awhile and then I put the whole stuff together in an envelope and sent it down to the NAACP, namely to Thurgood Marshall, maybe I sent it to Walter White and he referred it to Marshall. Well then to take the cake, I thought, "All right, they couldn't win on Hocutt because of complications and whatnot, but nobody can say anything about the standing and status of Hunter College nor of me in terms of academic standing, and isn't this an answer?" I then got the shock of my life. I learned that the NAACP very carefully picks its cases in these days, they had to win every case, it goes carefully into the background of the person who is going to be the

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bearer of the case, and all of this being said to a proud Fitzgerald Murray, you know …"What does he mean by ‘going carefully into the background of it?"’ But there was a certain kind of …the way that I read this was, "We have to be very careful of the people that we select. They have to be Simon-pure and you are not quite Simon-pure enough." I was too maverick.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, they had special qualifications for test litigants which were designed by Charles Houston when he came as special counsel. Now, by the end of '38, he was moving back to Washington, D.C. and more and more things were coming to Thurgood Marshall's desk. Now, in his letter to you, did he indicate …
PAULI MURRAY:
I think that this was not a letter, I think this was a personal interview.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
In this interview, he indicated that your radical activities had adversely affected their …
PAULI MURRAY:
Might well have been. He might have implied this, you see.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I see.
PAULI MURRAY:
Now, Conrad Pearson, whom you know …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, the Assistant Attorney General …
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, but he used to be the local NAACP …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
That's right.
PAULI MURRAY:
Conrad was very anxious to go forward with it and to try it anyway, but I had …here is a part of the contradictions in my personality where I am extremely individualistic, but at the same time have a very strong sense of team play and you know, if the National

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NAACP did not feel that they could take the case, I would hesitate and think a long time before I would sort of "go off the reservation," so to speak. The other legal problem which Thurgood raised was that the Lloyd Gaines case had to do with a state resident and I really was no longer resident of the state of North Carolina. I argued that my ancestral home was there, we have property there, I even owned property there in terms of being part of an heirship of my grandmother's farm, this kind of thing, and besides, if the Fourteenth Amendment, under the Fourteenth Amendment they let in white nonresidents, that same Fourteenth Amendment requires them to let me in. But this did not …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Certainly, it's legally arguable, but it did not seem politic, in other words?
PAULI MURRAY:
But note who is making the argument. What I'm really trying to show you is how the logic of the situations in which I found myself and my reaction to them was driving me in a sense, toward a legal career.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
So it seems that despite the sensibleness and the possibility certainly, the legal feasibility of it being argued, it simply did not seem the reasonable thing to do at the time, to go on with that.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. You see, I was a victim of a policy which obviously the NAACP felt that it must carry out in those early days and that is, it could not afford to lose a case and therefore, it built very carefully every single case that it took up before the Supreme Court so as to almost insure victory. This is understandable. I might as an individual involved, feel terribly disappointed, but if you stand off historically and look at it and see where the NAACP was in those

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days, fighting a long battle …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, and if one looks at the judicial system and the manner in which we ultimately achieved favorable constitutional decisions, which come very fast along down the road, the precedents have to be very firmly established. So, the point of view of the NAACP is understandable. Now, this obviously was a disappointment, but you do not cease to engage in activities that have to do with racial protest.
The second incident, for example, in 1940, having to do with interstate travel and public accommodation, the Petersburg, Virginia bus incident. I believe this was a Greyhound bus that you were riding on?
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And you were arrested and convicted for resisting segregation on this bus, despite the fact that it was interstate travel, meaning that this was basically under federal jurisdiction. Would you like to tell us what to your mind were the most important issues involved in this case, why at this particular point in your life you decided to defy the statute, why you went on with the case, and what the eventual result was?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, first I ought to say that I and my school friend who was arrested with me did not start out deliberately to protest the Virginia segregation statutes. As so often happened in those early days, an incident would arise out of almost intolerable situations. I mean, a person could be pushed into a position where there was just nothing you could do almost but fight back. In this particular situation, my friend and I were traveling from New York down to Durham to visit

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my two aunts at the ancestral home for Easter. My friend was West Indian in background and could not believe that there were such things as real segregation laws in the South. But she seemed to feel that American Negroes …you know that there is a kind of a cultural tension there …that American Negroes were just too timid and …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
They just put up with it.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And her name was?
PAULI MURRAY:
Her name was Adelene McBean. Knowing that Mac, as we used to call her, knowing that Mac was volatile, I did everything I could to try to borrow a car to make this trip and with no success whatsoever. By this time, I no longer had my little car. It wound up that on Easter evening, we were headed from Washington to Durham on a Greyhound Bus. The bus that we started out on was a long, very nice bus, plenty of room. We probably sat somewhat to the rear of the center of the bus, having plenty of room for whites and plenty of room for Negroes. We stopped at Richmond, I guess, for a rest stop and lunch stop or whatnot and somehow, we were late getting back to the original bus, which rapidly filled up with people who were …this was, you know, beginning to be the real Easter weekend rush for local people. The long bus left us and we had to take the auxillary bus, which was a much smaller and much less comfortable bus. So, we got in and sat, again, slightly rear of center, or maybe even a little bit more than that. The way in which the people filled up made it clear that Negroes would fill the back of the bus, that there were plenty of Negroes. But somehow, the way in which the population, but population, shifted, brought on a considerable number of white people, more than had been on in the past.

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So, the time came when the driver came back and asked us to get up and move back. When I am looking out the window and seeing that there are going to be enough Negroes getting on to take care of all that back space, and so, there is no reason for me to move. And we so inform him. When he insists, we look behind us and find that the seat behind us is a broken seat.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
PAULI MURRAY:
… and the driver goes out and I suppose goes through all of the necessary business about drawing up a warrant or a warrant of arrest, or whatnot…still not quite ready to arrest us, you know, and finally bringing on the police and trying to make a deal. And it appears, since I want to get home for Easter, I don't want to be arrested, why am I making all this effort? To get home to my folks for Easter, apparently they are prepared to make a compromise, that we move back to this seat and they check the seat and find that it isn't really broken, that the cushion is out of place. But in the process, apparently the driver thinks that there might be a court case and so he goes up and gets a batch of volunteer name and address witness cards and routinely hands out all of these witness cards to every white person in the front of the bus and when he gets to the last white person, he then turns, you see. At which point, I say, "Driver, how about giving us some of those cards? We are also witnesses." At this point, they go out and get the cops and arrest us. So, it really has nothing to do with breaking the segregation law. It really has nothing to do with creating a disburbance, because if there were a disturbance, apparently the disturbance had subsided and so it was simply the whole southern custom that

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must be satisfied and you simply cannot break the taboo.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And they charged you with what?
PAULI MURRAY:
They charged us with creating a disturbance, breaking the segregation law, violating the segregation law and creating a disturbance.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Well, talking out of turn might have been creating a disturbance.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. Somebody was going to Durham. I quickly gave them a note, my mother's name, telephone and gave her instructions to wire or call Walter White, who was Roy Wilkins' precedessor.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes.
PAULI MURRAY:
In the NAACP. So that by …I suppose that this must have been somewhere around four or five o'clock in the afternoon and by evening, NAACP lawyers from Richmond were asking at the jail to see us.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Was Oliver Hill involved?
PAULI MURRAY:
Oliver Hill, Cooley and Valentine, all NAACP lawyers. Meanwhile, the minute that we got into our jail cell, we sat down and did a report, a summary, immediately of the case, the facts, a chart of the bus, everything that we could think of that would be of any value in this case. When the lawyers came, we presented it to them and they looked it over and they said, "Well, this is practically as good as a lawyer's brief." So, this implied that you should study law. Well, I throw this in, because this again is one of the pointers toward law school. When the state discovered that the NAACP was going to challenge and probably use this as a test case, it withdrew the charge of the segregation statute and left standing the creation of a disturbance. I began to think, although I couldn't say it in these terms, I didn't have the legal skill, but they can't charge you …well, they can't do indirectly what they can't do directly. In other words, they are

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really using a disturbance charge to …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
To penalize you for another violation.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right and they are afraid to penalize you for what they really want to penalize you for, because they know that these laws are now increasingly under legal challenge and of course, this was 1940. In 1946, the identical statutes under which I was convicted were declared unconsitutional in Irene Morgan's case, Commonwealth vs. Morgan. So, it took six years.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, did they end up dropping the charge of disturbing the peace, or did you lose the case or …
PAULI MURRAY:
No, they convicted me and Roy Wilkins informed us that the NAACP could not afford to appeal the case and therefore we would have to either pay the fine or go to jail. We refused to pay the fine. We went to jail and while in jail, began to use Gandhian tactics on the jailer, with some modest success. The jailer who had threatened to throw my you-know-what in the dungeon when I came in, as we went out apologized in the way in which southerners used to not only apologize, "you are sort of the better kind," … this kind of thing.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
"And if you get a degree, you might be my peer, soon."
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, you did not engage in any political consciousness raising while you were in jail?
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, yes.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You did?
PAULI MURRAY:
We were thrown into a cell with three or four women who were there for reasons of either streetwalking or maybe violating a curfew, or one woman had hit her boyfriend over the head and broken a bottle, but these

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were the kinds of women that were in our cell and I think that there were four or five women in our cell. It was the old Petersburg jail that had been there before the Civil War and it was crowded, so crowded that they had male colored prisoners sort of on pallets along the corridors outside of this cell. You know, I mean that it was that crowded. The men had rigged up a device where they could take a mirror, a little hand mirror and place it in such a way under the door …and you see that the doors were not really well down, …they could keep the women under surveillance by the use of this little mirror. So, you felt utterly exposed. In the first place, the john and everything was wide open, there was no privacy whatsoever. And the attitude of the males was, "Who are those two New York whores? Who are they?" In other words, the male colored prisoners, not knowing anything of the background of why we were there made certain assumptions about us. At which point, we took our pen in hand and again, using the Gandhian technique, wrote them sort of a little treatise about why we were there. We wrote them almost a little speech.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And who made pens and pencils available, or did you have them already?
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, we insisted on having all our pens and paper and typewriters and by this time, it was known that the White House was interested in the case. My sister here in Washington had interrupted Mrs. Roosevelt in the middle of a garden party and told her that her sister had been arrested in Virginia and Mrs. Roosevelt had called the governor of Virginia and by this time, somebody alerted the people in Petersburg, "Be careful."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Was Darden the governor of Virginia at that point?
PAULI MURRAY:
No. Who was the governor? Darden had not come in yet, it

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must have been Price.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
It was Price, o.k. And you had known …Eleanor Roosevelt has called you one of her two best friends.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, I had known her …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, you had known her for how long by 1940?
PAULI MURRAY:
Actually, probably not more …I didn't know her really well even then, but I think that we had been in correspondence. I had been corresponding with her, peppering her since maybe 1938, since the University of North Carolina incident, again saying …I didn't know her well, you saw a letter there signed by her own name, so we would say roughly that I had known her for about two years.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Let the record show that Dr. Murray has files on both the UNC case and the Petersburg bus case.
PAULI MURRAY:
The point I am trying to make is that by this time, I think the local Petersburg authorities began to say, "These may be unusual prisoners, in the sense that we 've got to be very careful about them." So, the second time around, this is when we are not paying the fine and are serving our term, that we were allowed our typewriter and whatnot. But even so, I think that we had pencils and pads, I just can't function without having my little notebook and pencil and so, however we communicated, we did a kind of an educational job in saying why we were there, what had happened and whatnot, we got back an apology and in a sense, an admission of "we are proud of you," if I recall what came back from the male prisoners… It indicated that consciousness raising could go on right in the middle of a jail. I think that I have one of these notes, I'm not sure where it is.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, do you have any idea that they suffered at all as a result, I

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mean, after they discovered why you were in jail? After you left, did you ever hear again about any of these people, or from any of these people as to whether or not they engaged in any activities inside or outside the jail?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, we had no information about the people inside the jail, but I did think that it was significant that when we showed up for trial, you see, we appealed this and the next time we showed up for trial, here was the entire sociology class of …is it Virginia Union?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, Virginia Union in Richmond.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, this was in Petersburg …what is the school there?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Oh, Virginia State College.
PAULI MURRAY:
Virginia State College, sitting there. When we walked into the courthouse, there they were. See, here are some notes, "notes slipped under the door from male prisoners to female prisoners."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
These notes are dated March 23 and 26 of 1940. Is it possible to read?
PAULI MURRAY:
[Reading] "Thanks for your advice. I did not know that is the same one that I spoke to last night, but that it will still be a little better in my behavior as …", well, as something. But the attitude, what I'm really trying to suggest is that the attitude of the men changed and then they began to ask for help themselves, you see. "Dear Murray and Mac, I am amazed how you all feel, I can imagine how you all feel, but I hope you will get out all right. I had some bad luck, too. I am accused of shooting a cop, so you can imagine how I feel and the fix I am in, but if I get over this, I will never show my face again in these parts." What I am really trying to say to you …here is another one: "Just a few lines to let

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you hear, I heard you was on your way to Durham, North Carolina. I may know you and you may know when I lived in Durham, I live on Pine Street and when I was going, I went to W.G…" I guess that he means W.G. Pearson School …"My name is Andrew Jackson, I have lived on Queens." It was just a …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
A rapport and a new kind of awareness.
PAULI MURRAY:
Can you imagine what it might have been like if I had had the background and the training and understanding, let's say, of the 1960s. You see, this is groping. This is a historical development, groping, a sense of trying to educate my fellow prisoners but not really having the skills to do anything to help them or to get their story out.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
But then on the other hand, given that it is this period, had you any greater skills and had you been more militant, you might not be here today. So, during King's period, it's a different story.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, but I think that you begin to see that …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, you do begin to see, you do see very well.
O.K., now let's move on to the other incident, because this is one that I have read about so often in the newspapers and in the Workers Defense League files and it is one that I'm sure posterity will be interested in and that is the case of Odell Waller, the black sharecropper. Now, if you could briefly give us the facts of the case and then tell us how you participated in the Workers Defense League prior to your going to law school.
PAULI MURRAY:
Odell Waller was a sharecropper. Oscar Davis was a farmer who was his landlord. Oscar Davis, being not really a planter, but also himself a relatively small, grubby farmer. They had a dispute over a wheat crop. Apparently the division was supposed to be Odell and his mother

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worked the wheat crop and when the division would be made, one-fourth of every four bags, or however they did the bag, would go to Odell Waller and his family. In some ways, this was apparently not carried out and Odell, who had been away looking for work came back to have it out with his landlord. I think that his mother must have written him and said that they had put all the wheat into Mr. Davis's barn instead of giving them their one-quarter. So, Odell goes over to Davis to have it out. Unfortunately, I think that he takes a rifle along with him. I think that it was a rifle. In the argument, Odell's story is that Davis puts his hands in his pocket and Odell thinks that he is going to pull out a gun and so, he shoots first in what he believes to be self-defense. Davis is eventually taken to the hospital, seems to be all right, getting along all right, and then he dies of a collapsed lung. Odell has escaped to Ohio, in due course he is apprehended in Ohio and a Workers Defense League lawyer in Ohio unsuccessfully fights to keep him from being extradited to Virginia. This lawyer reports to the national board of the Workers Defense League, on which I am sitting that summer, and says, "We have this case which is going back to Virginia and we've lost the fight to keep him from being extradited. Will you follow up on the case?" All summer, we …and this is my first experience on the board …all summer we are wrestling with this case of this sharecropper who has been extradited and going back to Virginia. We somehow don't seem to really come to any decisive point of action, but it keeps being on the agenda. I'm giving you my impressions. The next thing that we know, the trial has been held and the man has been convicted and sentenced to die.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And it's first degree murder.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, it's first degree murder. This case has been kicking

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around all summer before our committee or board or whatnot and I'm sitting as a member of that board and immediately feel a personal responsibility for not having done something.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, as board member, are you field secretary at the same time or were you field secretary after?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, I was field secretary after.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
O.K.
PAULI MURRAY:
Also, I identified, because six months earlier, I had been arrested in Virginia. Remember that this case happens in the summer of 1940 and it was in…well, three months earlier, it was in March, 1940 that I have my Waterloo. So, there are all these emotional pulls and identifications. When the Workers Defense League asks me if I will go down and investigate and see what I can come up with, then I go down to investigate and my quest leads me from southwest Virginia where Odell Waller lived to Richmond, to the death house, only to discover that if I am not a lawyer, I can't interview him in the death house. So, all of this is tying up. Eventually, I was able, eventually on the second trip down, I got permission to interview him. Then, I think that it is on a second trip that I go down to try to raise some funds among the local ministers.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And his mother is also engaged in this?
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, his mother is engaged in this. I think that it is in Richmond that I want to come before, or ask permission to come before the local ministers alliance, the Negro ministers alliance, only to discover that Dr. Leon Ransom, who is Professor of Constitutional Law and Criminal Law at Howard University, also …I think that it is Ransom and maybe Thurgood Marshall, I'm not sure …I think it may be the two of them …are coming

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before the alliance that day and first, obviously, to make an appeal for four young Negro boys who have been convicted or are on trial for rape. This was a real cause celebre. So much has happened, there is just one thing after another, that they give me five minutes. They almost say, "What do you want? We don't really have time for you, but we will give you five minutes to say what you have to say." I get up to speak and maybe for the first time in my life, I get out two words and then I just burst into tears and stand there and just utterly collapse in tears trying to tell the story of this young sharecropper. I won't tell you how embarassing it was to me, but it was like a miracle. It brought forth, after these men had already shelled out for Thurgood and Leon Ransom and whatnot, it brought forth twenty-three dollars and in those days, for an unknown case and an unknown person and on the heels of this cause celebre, this was almost unheard of. So, this began both my identification with the case and a two year struggle. But meanwhile, back at the hotel, Thurgood, I guess …I think that Thurgood was on that trip …anyway, Dr. Ransom was there and Dr. Ransom was acting dean of the law school and I just kind of, you know, rapping back and forth, said, "Well look, if I'm going to be messing around with these cases, I might as well study law." He said, "Come on, we'd love to have you." I said, "Give me a fellowship and I will." He says, "O.K., I'll give you a fellowship." It was in that kind of banter back and forth that sure enough, he went back and sent me the papers. I filled them out, almost forgetting about them and went on my way, working on the Odell Waller case, spent the summer writing and planning to write a book, to write what later became Proud Shoes, and toward the end of the summer, out of the clear blue, I got a letter from Ransom stating that, "You have been admitted to law school and awarded a scholarship."

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GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Would you mention one thing before we leave Waller and move to Howard Law School, and that is, the poll tax and the jury …
PAULI MURRAY:
O.K. Our defense, our appellate, that is, our appeal to try to get Waller's case reversed, was based upon the fact that he was convicted by an all poll tax jury. The jury lists being based upon the voting lists and the voting lists being based upon the payment of a poll tax, which was cumulative for at least three years. Since I think that it was about a dollar and a half a year, it would mean that a person who didn't pay his poll tax for three years had to pay four dollars and fifty cents and this was almost prohibitive for sharecroppers. So, you had a poll tax jury which, for all practical purposes, was a planters jury. Our contention was that such a jury was a denial of equal protection and of course, that the poll tax …this was calling into question the constitutionality of the poll tax. In due course, that argument became the law of the land. I think that it was the Harper case some years later [1966] and so, the Virginia poll tax was struck down as unconstitutional. In Waller's case, unfortunately, he was represented by an inexperienced but very well intentioned lawyer. And while the instincts of the lawyer were correct, and that is, an attempt to show that Waller had been convicted by a poll tax jury, he had not put in the record evidence, the kind of foundational evidence that would permit him to raise the constitutional question before the Supreme Court. So, purely on the basis of procedural limitations, we could not get the Supreme Court to take the case, because in scanning the record, they could not find the basis upon which to raise the question.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Right. We know that a federal question must be raised before the Supreme Court.

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PAULI MURRAY:
Right. And I kept saying to myself as this happened, and I'm in there pitching, not as a lawyer, but as a special field secretary raising funds, working with the lawyers and that kind of thing, and I kept saying to myself, "If we lose this man's life, I must study law." And we lost his life.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes. Even appeals to the governor did not succeed and as I recall reading in the papers, lawyers who were firmly convinced that one could work through the judicial system, wrote letters to the governor and had appeals in newspapers that because of the injustice of the poll tax, his sentence should be commuted and Colgate Darden did not feel that he should do this.
PAULI MURRAY:
I think perhaps that you would be amused at this little footnote to history. Waller was executed July 2, 1942. I graduated from Howard University Law School in June, 1944 at the top of my class and winner of a Rosenwald Fellowship for graduate study in law. I took it upon myself to send an engraved invitation to Howard University Commencement to Governor Darden, reminding him of the Odell Waller case and my role in it, and suggesting to him that a live lawyer was far more a danger to his system than a dead sharecropper.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Certainly a necessary memorial to an unnecessary death.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Well, let us move on to Howard Law School. You've mentioned Leon Ransom and the kinds of issues that pushed you towards law school. Were there other heroes and heroines or idols …
PAULI MURRAY:
I just …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Or embittering experiences or circumstances under which you …

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PAULI MURRAY:
You see, I just missed Charles Houston. You see, my three greats were Charles Houston, William H. Hastie, and Leon Ransom. Houston, I think, retired the very summer before I entered, I think that was perhaps his last year.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, he was in private practice.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, but even though he wasn't teaching on the hill, I was aware of him and I think that he was aware of me and so for a year or so, I've forgotten when he died …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
He died in 1950.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. So, during that period at Howard, I was somehow under his influence. I do want to back up a little bit, however, and tell you of a little incident that made law school almost a must for me. When we were …when Mac, my friend and I, were preparing for the Petersburg trial, we …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
This is your appeal?
PAULI MURRAY:
This is our appeal and it was an appeal from the police court to the next highest court, the Hustings Court not a real appellate court, but it was almost like what they would call a trial de novo, you would hold a hearing in a police court and then you would go to …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Another municipal court.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. In preparing for that appeal, all the lawyers involved met at Howard Law School with Bill Hastie and Thurgood Marshall and Ransom. The whole corps of them met. Here are these two little insignificant people, but the issue is so important that here is this battery of brilliant legal minds at work. They went through every constitutional phase of the thing, every act of it. One would act as the lawyer for the prosecution, to tear

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down the arguments of the lawyer for the NAACP and I watched this and I just sat there and almost drooled.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You know that Hastie instituted that particular kind of method of teaching law because blacks had so few opportunities to take part in the ways that the courts worked.
PAULI MURRAY:
And being the participants in this case and therefore knowing all the facts of the case, just to sit there and watch these lawyers in their legal antics, I 'm sure that this had a tremendous impetus to shove me toward training in the law.
O.K., so at the law school, two things happened immediately. I became aware of sex prejudice.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
That was something that I was going to ask you about.
PAULI MURRAY:
I became aware of it in my freshman year at law school. It came upon me as a terrible shock. I had not grown up in a family where limitations were placed upon women. My whole family tradition had been self-sufficient women. My grandfather, patriarch though he was, believed in his daughters being self-sufficient and independent and so it just simply was not a part of my family tradition to expect any limitations upon what a woman could and could not do. I had never thought of myself in terms of a woman. I had thought of myself in preparing to be a civil rights lawyer for this cause. I had not been in school, I guess for two or three days, and Professor Robert Ming, said …I can't tell whether he was kidding or being sarcastic or what, but he said, "We don't know why women come to law school anyway, but since you're here …" However you take it, one has to respond, you can't just say that this is really kidding. Then the second thing, was that there was a notice on the bulletin board very shortly, maybe two or three weeks after school began which said, "All male members of the first year class are

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invited to Dean So-and-So's for a smoker." There were only two females in the entire school, one of which was myself. I am so stunned. I couldn't imagine. "What is all this?" So, I raised the question. I was told that they wanted to look over the members of the first year class for the legal fraternity. "Well, if it is a legal fraternity, why am I not eligible?" "Oh, well, why don't you women go and form a legal sorority." So, what I'm really saying is that removing the racial factor, Howard University being a school where the racial factor was not the problem, immediately the sex factor was isolated and stood there in all of its …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And the professor who was involved in making a suggestion of a female legal society was not one of the white professors at the law school?
PAULI MURRAY:
There were no white professors.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
At that point, there were no white professors, in the twenties and thirties?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, there were none at that point. [in the 1940's] So, my whole experience at law school was an experience of learning really for the first time what, in a way, a crude kind of sexism can be, an unvarnished one. It is not the …the sexism in a minority group, and I would think that this is true in machismo, the hispanic tradition, it is not a smooth kind thing, it isn't so disguised. It is a kind of straight out machismo.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
In fact, so much a part of custom that one is not supposed to question it, which is why it can be crude.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. And so, this is the beginning of my conscious feminism, which began at Howard University back in the 1940s.

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GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, rarely does a person become committed to direct action and then move strictly into the world of scholarship. I mean, books and study and all that kind of thing. Aside from sexism at Howard Law School, did you attempt, given the difficulties of legal study, I mean with doing legal study and then you have the sexism problem, did you attempt to combine the study with protest or anything such as that? Did particular professors involve you in outside activities?
PAULI MURRAY:
Actually not, from the point of view of professors. I did become involved in direct action in 1943 and 1944, my second and third year. This came about, however, not so much from what we were learning in law school, as the … what was happening to people in wartime, what was happening to thoughtful young Negroes in wartime in the United States with our men …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Going into Jim Crow armies.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, but still going to fight for the Four Freedoms, the sharpness of the notion of Nazism and its racial …the revulsion that this was causing and immediate association of the Nazi Aryanism with racism in this country, the fact that women …that law schools were among the least protected in terms of selective service and therefore, my classmates were almost wiped out.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
They were disappearing, yes.
PAULI MURRAY:
And a sense of my being in a protected position and "what am I doing to make this country better when they come back?" And this being the point of view, to some extent, of many Howard University women. What can we do to make this country democratic, while our men are

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fighting abroad?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
As a graduate, did you work with undergraduates also?
PAULI MURRAY:
I worked with undergraduates, I imagine that most of the students were …well, there were some graduate students, but I would guess that the bulk of these were undergraduates. The bulk of them were women and undergraduates and we began to participate in sit-downs in restaurants in the spring of 1943 and the spring of 1944, with some modest success. I say "modest success," because we were not able to carry on a continuous campaign due to the fact that Howard University receives a considerable amount of money from Congress and Senator Bilbo—the famous, or infamous depending on how you look at him Senator from Mississippi—, he is the man who used to campaign on sending all Negroes back to Africa. Well, Bilbo was sitting on the D.C. Committee and former president, Mordecai Johnson, ordered us to cease and desist because Howard University appropriations were on the spot.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
It is the case, however, that whenever it was not a time for consideration of appropriations, he generally encouraged relative freedom of speech.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. And interestingly enough, we did not really defy him, because I think that we realistically knew that the fate of the institution was at stake and we were not willing to take responsibility for that kind of thing, but we did then turn our reform energies upon the administration of the school and call for a whole review and revamping of administrative procedure …
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

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PAULI MURRAY:
In a sense, what we were asking for was a reorganization of the way in which student-faculty-administration relationships developed, so that students would have more say in the planning of the university. I graduated that year, 1944, and I think that this impetus carried forward a little bit to the next year, but I don't think it became a real part of the school administration policy. It may well be that the failure of the school to have a kind of foresight in the 1940s perpetuated a condition that caused such a great deal of student unrest in the sixties.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Of course, one problem being that Mordecai Johnson was actually pushed into that position and was the first black president of Howard University and was a minister, not an administrator and had to work through intuition and through the advice of as many people as he could find to counsel him. This is certainly one of the greatest of hardships and with alumni at all points calling for his dismissal and for the reinstatement of a white president. All of these things, I think, probably added to the fact that students were not going to continue the same kind of activities, although we do know that they continued with public accomodations in later years, downtown D.C. and Thompson restaurants were cases that continued throughout the period. Now, following your graduation from Howard, you sought a graduate degree in law and eventually went to California, U.C. Berkeley and earned a L.L.M. Now, why did you not go to Carolina or some other place and take the bar exam?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, first of all, I went to California because, although my Rosenwald Fellowship called for graduate study of law at Harvard University Law School, Harvard rejected me because of my sex.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, I was going to ask you why you thought that you could go

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to Harvard, because Harvard …
PAULI MURRAY:
Naively, I did not know that Harvard did not admit women and did not believe my professors and fellow students when they kidded me and said how Harvard would not let me in because I was a woman. You see, up until this time, I had so concentrated on race, civil rights, I was almost utterly unaware of the disability of sex.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, you certainly had the example of Ransom, of Hastie, of Houston, and they had all been black and they all had succeeded and so it would seem logical that you should be able to go there. What was the experience at California at the law school like? Was there the same kind of closeness in the student body in terms of work or were you relatively to yourself?
PAULI MURRAY:
I was relatively to myself because I was literally the only graduate student. Remember that this is wartime, 1944, 1945. I went to California because it was the only school in the country that had retained its major faculty. Many of the law schools, both students and faculty were decimated. The faculty going off on wartime assignments and the students going into the army. It so happened that many of the old masters, Paul Radin, D.O. McGovney, Ballantine, of Ballantine's Corporations, men who had made their mark, very often in eastern universities, very often at Harvard University, were getting close to retirement and they had gravitated toward California. So, California had a fairly good concentration of faculty and they were willing to take me on as a graduate student. Yale wouldn't take me on because their whole graduate program had closed down during the war and so, California was the only place that I could go.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I do want to go back to why you didn't take the North

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Carolina Bar exams?
PAULI MURRAY:
North Carolina had a segregation statute and if I am to be admitted to the Bar, I must swear or affirm that I will uphold the laws of the state in which I am admitted and I simply could not affirm that I would uphold the segregation laws.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, did you take the New York Bar exams immediately after Howard, or after California?
PAULI MURRAY:
After California. Right after I got my graduate degree, almost simultaneously with getting my graduate degree, I took and passed the California Bar and for a very brief time, had a temporary appointment as Deputy Attorney General of the State of California and got bumped when wartime veterans came back and exercised their preferential status. So then I returned east and eventually took the New York Bar.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, two things. Did the Rosenwald Fellowship entirely take care of your needs?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, I got an extension, with an extended stipend, but I supplemented that by waiting tables at International House, where I was a resident and by acting as a house counsel and in one case, I was able to get my meals and in the second case, I was able to get my rent and that was what took me through.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I understand that you worked on The Los Angeles Sentinel for awhile. When did this occur?
PAULI MURRAY:
Between graduation from Howard in June and the opening of California in October. The summer of 1944, I worked on The Sentinel.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And did you find any sexism in relationship to this?
PAULI MURRAY:
No. Loren Miller, the late Judge Loren Miller, who wrote

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The Petitioners, he and I hit it off beautifully. First of all, we had this common tradition of civil rights and he was really a beautiful human being and so that was a very, very happy relationship and they just turned me loose as a roving reporter and let me go my way, so I had no sense of sex discrimination.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, what would you consider your most memorable case for the short time that you served as Deputy Attorney General of California? That was under Governor Warren, wasn't it?
PAULI MURRAY:
That was under Governor Warren. I no more than literally took office when I was handed the investigation of a case known as the Fontana Case. Fontana, California, not too far from San Bernadino, not too far from Los Angeles. This was a case in which a migrating family from Mississippi, of mixed racial heritage, so that its identification was really unclear …they could have been Indian, they could have been whatever, apparently bought property in Fontana and there must have been some sort of gentlemen's agreement whereas whites resided on, we'll say, north of this invisible line and blacks or Negroes or colored or Hispanic or whatever …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Any nonwhites.
PAULI MURRAY:
Any nonwhites would live south of this line. And apparently, this family, without any knowledge of this, bought this lot and began to construct their house and they were building it themselves.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Therefore, it did not involve a restrictive covenant.
PAULI MURRAY:
No, it didn't involve a restrictive convenant, but it involved some sort of gentlemen's agreement, I think of zoning. They were warned by the local police and sheriff and in California, the whole

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law enforcement system was an integrated system. In other words, the Attorney General was boss of all the police and local law enforcement officials and these local law enforcement officials warned this family that a posse might be developing, a posse or whatever.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Or a neighborhood organization.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. I think it was like a family, a father and mother and four or five children. They went into Los Angeles and appealed to the FBI for protection and the FBI said that it had no jurisdiction. The upshot of the situation was that when they came back one night to light their lantern …and understand, this was apparently in late fall or early winter, they were building the house and I think that it was in the tar paper stage, building it little by little and they had an oil drum to keep them warm and a lantern for light …well, this lantern exploded and there was a flash fire and every single one of them was burned to death. The circumstances pointed toward murder, really. And this investigation of this case fell into the Attorney General's office and was assigned to me. That was my first case.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And the upshot of that …or were you around for the upshot of it?
PAULI MURRAY:
All I could do, with the best of my investigation, was to … we could not seem to get evidence of what really happened, but I recall writing up the case and probably leaving open the question of who was responsible but pointing the finger at the failure of the law enforcement officials who should have been protecting the people, but rather were warning them to get out. I doubt that any resolution was made of the case. In some ways, it was a cause celebre, because it indicated the intensity

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of racial prejudice.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, would you care to compare or contrast, either your personal experience or what might have been the general nonwhite experience or Afro-American experience, either in North Carolina and in New York, D.C. and Berkeley, California, or any of those places, as combined with either North Carolina and D.C. or North Carolina and California or something like that. Are there any in particular that seem to be strikingly similar or strikingly different or what?
PAULI MURRAY:
If you are talking about the period of pre-war and World War II, in North Carolina the racial segregation was rigidly enforced by law, so that any deviation placed you immediately in jeapordy of being arrested and the full force of the law being directed against you. In Washington, D.C., there were no segregation laws and we were able to carry out our sit-ins and picketing without being arrested because we were able to show the law enforcement officials that first of all, there was no segregation law and secondly, there was no law against picketing. In California, there was not only no segregation law, but there were in fact, civil rights laws. Moreover, in California, there was not just a black-white presence, but there was a spectrum of whites, which might be divided into native Californians and in-migrants from the South, Oklahoma, Arkansas and people who were really refugees from the Dustbowl catastrophes of the mid-thirties. There were Mexicanos, well, Hispanics, and there were Orientals and I was in California right at the time of the beginnings of …well, first of all, there had been the internment of the Japanese-Americans. People of Japanese descent, Issei, Nisei, and I discovered that in the hierarchy at the time that I was there, whites, of

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course, had the top position. Negroes seemed to be in the second favorable status and seemed to fare better than the Orientals and the Indians and the Mexicanos. Middle-class Negroes, for example, had been able to move into the homes left vacant by the Japanese-Americans who had been interned. When you got on a streetcar, you could see this spectrum of humanity. This gave me some perspective on racial status. I began then thinking of minorities rather than just the black-white situation. As a matter of fact, at the University of California we developed a panel of five or six or seven women students, made up of Spanish speaking Americans, a Nisei Japanese-American, who had just returned from internment, a Hawaiian-American, a Chinese-American, a German Jew who had escaped Naziism, an American of …a Caucasian-American who had grown up in China of missionary parents. This was, in a sense, a panel of minorities and we would rap. In other words, we would do a kind of bull session among ourselves. We were all friends and fellow students and we would go around and do this publicly, showing the interrelations of problems of minorities.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Your thesis for your L.L.M. had nothing to do with this or was it strictly on a legal matter that was not related to minorities or was it related to civil rights?
PAULI MURRAY:
I began my graduate work as a continuation of something that I had started at Howard University in my senior year, my senior civil rights paper. This paper raised the question as to whether or not Plessy vs. Ferguson and the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 should not be overruled. My intense desire was to find a legal basis for overruling the segregation decisions. I worked on that intensively for almost a whole year, going

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back through the Congressional records of the period of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was declared unconstitutional in 1883, to try to see if I could not show that the Thirteenth Amendment was intended to strike down, not only the legal relationship of slavery, but also the badges of servitude. And after six months of backbreaking research, working under Prof. D.O. McGovney, who was the constitutional law professor and the man who wrote the definitive rationale for declaring unconstituional restrictive covenants, on the basis that judicial action by the states through the upholding of a restrictive convenant was state action within the prohibition of the Fourteenth Amendment. Now, that's the man under whom I did my work and I still have two huge notebooks. After all of this work, charts and whatnot, he looked over the evidence and came to the conclusion that it was inconclusive and that we really could not say on the basis of this that the Thirteenth Amendment was directed against racial segregation or discrimination.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, did he direct you to move toward the Fourteenth or did he simply let you go on your way?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, we had to …we tried both. That is, I was working with both, but basically trying to use the Thirteenth Amendment, because I was first after the Civil Rights Cases and once I got the Civil Rights Cases straightened out, then I would move toward Plessy vs. Ferguson. So, I literally had to switch my graduate work and go over into the labor field and there I did a study of the right to equal opportunity in employment. It was the first definitive published law review article on the right to equal opportunity in employment. That was the beginnings, as you know, of the FEPC, Fair Employment Practices. I might say, however, that the thesis

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that I had in mind originally was eventually upheld in a case decided in a case called the Mayer case. Mayer was the defendant in the case, but it was the interracial couple in St. Louis who were refused housing
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Mayer vs. Jones?
PAULI MURRAY:
Jones vs. Mayer, I believe. [Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. (1969)] Yes. It was decided in favor of the fact that the Thirteenth Amendment was held … I would like to say here, if you will notice that the questions you've been asking me about my activities and the things that I was involved in, that in not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated and what I very often say is that I've lived to see my lost causes found.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
So individually, you might have failed, but not really personally.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I'm interested, from 1948 until 1960, you went into private practice with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison in New York City.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, from 1948 until 1956, I was in private practice by myself.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Oh, I see. Then from '56 until 1960, you were with them.
PAULI MURRAY:
And during that period, 1948 until 1952, States' Laws On Race and Color was a research job that I did for the Women's Division of the Methodist Church. They published it and according to Thurgood Marshall, that became the Bible for the civil rights lawyers when they were fighting these segregation cases.

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GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, I understand that this law firm included such people as Arthur Goldberg and Adlai Stevenson and I just wonder what it was like working in that firm, for you. Whether or not, had you not had the opportunity to go to Ghana, you would have stuck with it longer and if there were any cases that seemed to you to be very significant as you worked in the firm, because you became an associate of the firm.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, the first Negro associate in that firm was Bill Coleman, who you now recognize as Secretary of Transportation. [1975] The second Negro to be an associate in that firm was myself. I would not take anything for the experience. It gave me an opportunity to practice "gentlemen's law" with all the facilities of a million dollar law firm, with all the prestige that carried in terms of the courtesy that one might have in the courts, with all of the necessary equipment for efficiency. To give you some example of the way in which this firm worked, it would contribute from time to time, the labor of its lawyers to, we will say, "legal aid."
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I understand that it had at least a hundred lawyers. Is that right?
PAULI MURRAY:
Oh, yes. And it has even more today. It would, as I say, contribute, for example, it would contribute my services to assist the legal aid in an appeal. We kept strict accounting of our time for billing our clients and when we didn't have a client to bill, we would use what was known as "general office." In other words, every moment of our time was charged against something, either a client or general expenses. I was selected to do an appeal on a rape case for the Legal Aid. When I finished and argued my case and figured out the time charges, it was close to five thousand dollars. So, that gives you some idea of how …of what it costs

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to work in a firm like that. I was in that firm, working, during the Little Rock crisis and the period in which Daisy Bates and her husband, L.C. Bates, who were the leaders of the NAACP during the Little Rock crisis and Daisy Bates you recognize as the mentor of the Little Rock Nine, the nine high school students. She was the state chairman of the NAACP. The recriminations against them were that people who had advertised in their little paper, The State Press, were intimidated and persuaded to withdraw their advertisements. So, they were forced to the wall. Their newspaper really went out of circulation because people withdrew their ads. During that period, I helped, along with others, voluntary gift ads from supporters. People would put in their ad whatever they wanted to, in terms of a quotation, and you would have someone like Senior Partner Lloyd K. Garrison, who by the way, was my sponsor for the New York Bar and is the great-grandson of William Lloyd Garrison. So, he would put in a quotation, say, from his great-grandfather. We raised several hundred dollars. It was nothing but a symbolic gesture, there was nothing that we could do really to save the paper. But in the process, I kept saying to myself, "What am I doing sitting up here in a Madison Avenue law firm, with a very good salary and a month's vacation and all the benefits? I'm really in the wrong place." Ultimately, it simply was not for me.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, did you volunteer your services in Ghana or were you asked to come to Ghana or how did that occur?
PAULI MURRAY:
I answered an ad. They advertised in British papers for senior lecturers. They were trying to start their law school.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
In Accra?
PAULI MURRAY:
Accra. They advertised in a British newspaper and a friend of mine sent me the ad and I answered it and their Attorney General came

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over here to this country and I had been up to see Professor Arthur Sutherland, he's dead now, who was a professor of law at Harvard but who had been on an international legal commission to help set up a plan for legal education in Ghana. I went up and talked with him about this and he encouraged me to go. He said that it would be a tremendous experience for me and that out of it might even come a book and in truth, out of it did come a book, which I co-authored with Prof. Leslie Rubin from South Africa.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
The Constitution and Government of Ghana.
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes. So, that's how that came about.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, what was the experience like being Senior Lecturer and also, if you would like to remark upon it, what was the experience like working with a co-author who was a non-black South African?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, you have two questions. One, I discovered that I was a civil libertarian and a person committed to human rights whether I was in North Carolina or whether I was in Accra, Ghana. And it soon became clear to me that Kwame Nkrumah had dictatorial instincts and was suppressing freedom of speech, was deliberately suppressing the freedom of the trade unions, of women's organizations, of youth organizations, was permitting and in a sense encouraging and almost demanding a personality cult.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Do you think that he did this …this is just your opinion, of course, but did this seem to be something that was direct or indirect as a result of having an increasing bureaucracy or because he had such convictions about the directions in which the nation had to go if it were to be indeed independent economically and politically?
PAULI MURRAY:
No, I think that history will bear me out, that Nkrumah had

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ambitions far beyond the development of his country. And I'm not an expert on African politics or African development, so you must take this as purely a kind of observer, with some human …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, you were there …
PAULI MURRAY:
I was there almost two years. But it seemed to me that Nkrumah was kind of bored with the notion of having to try to develop a little country, that his horizon called for a United States of Africa.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
And indeed, his political views called for Pan-Africanism.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. And therefore, his concerns seemed to be greater in terms of trying to bring about political intrigues or political unities than a really digging down into the real problems of his own country.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
That's why I asked if it seemed that sometimes the problems arose indirectly because he was so concerned about organizing a continent?
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. I really think, as I say, that he was bored with the notion of sticking to the reall problems of his little country. Unfortunately for him, he started out, you see, as the first independent leader, but within a very few years, all around him these little independent countries began springing up, each with its strong man, each with its sort of personality cult and where he might have been, say, the big brother of one or two countries, when suddenly all of these little countries began to grow up and have their own little unique respective nationalisms, or kind of development toward national pride, he was no longer the big brother. He could not exercise the big brother role. He then had as his protege, Lumumba, who was a young man and the rumor was that he, Nkrumah, almost bled the country of money to help Lumumba bring about a domination of the then Congo. I've forgotten …Zaire is it now?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes.

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PAULI MURRAY:
And of course, this failed because before Nkrumah could move in, was strong enough to move in …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
You mean before Lumumba could move in.
PAULI MURRAY:
No, if you remember, before the explosion, when you had practically a civil war, before Nkrumah could move in with troops, the United Nations made the move.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Oh, I see. Yes.
PAULI MURRAY:
No, Nkrumah was never really able. His attempts to gain hegemony or leadership over various countries failed. In my opinion, he was a real tragedy.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
It is very interesting that the great ability, the great foresight, all the ideals and with the political training that he had, one can only speculate that if he had had different sorts of advisors or something …
PAULI MURRAY:
That, and perhaps it was unfortunate that he spent so many years in the United States and got this sense of what it must be to have a big country, a subcontinent united and the power of a subcontinent. I've often felt that his sojourn in the United States made a tremendous impact and contributed to this obsession of a United States of Africa.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
One could probably talk forever about the numbers of Africans who, as a result of being either in the United States or a large country in Europe, have had problems with going back home and that kind of thing. Did you want to comment about working with Leslie Rubin, a South African?
PAULI MURRAY:
Working with whom?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
With Leslie Rubin, a non-black South African.
PAULI MURRAY:
Leslie and I had a very good relationship. Leslie had been

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the one Jew in the South African Senate and had suffered both from being a Jew and from being identified with the "coloreds" and blacks, the non-Europeans. He represented the "coloreds" in the Senate. He had come to Ghana with a sense of dedication and hope that here would be a place that he might make his contribution. He had discovered a different kind of authoritarianism in Ghana.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
That was his opinion, also?
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, you were Senior Lecturer in Constitutional and Administrative Law. What was his area?
PAULI MURRAY:
He may have taught a similar thing at [unclear] . You see, within the undergraduate program there was also a legal program at, I guess it was called University College of Ghana and later it became the University of Ghana. I was teaching at the Ghana Law School, which was, I think, an intermediate expedient to permit men and women who had not been able to go abroad to get their legal education to do a kind of … to be exposed to a kind of accelerated program that would allow them to qualify themselves for the bar and to practice in Ghana. You see, up until Independence, in order to be a member of the bar in Ghana, you had to go to England and be at the Inns of Court and once Ghana became independent, there was this clamor for legal education. Eventually, I think that the Ghana Law School was merged into the University of Ghana legal program. I don't know what has happened since I left.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, there are two other sort of disparate topics that I wanted you to comment on in terms of the way you used your legal expertise. Two commissions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Committee on Civil and Political Rights, the President's Commission on the Status of Women. First of all that, and then being the Stulberg Professor in Law

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and Politics at Brandeis. Would you just briefly make some remarks about those experiences and of what value you think your consultancy, for example, in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was and what it meant to Brandeis, for example, for you to be the Stulberg Professor?
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, let's see. Let me take them chronologically. The Civil and Political Rights Committee of the President's Commission on the Status of Women came first. There, I did, at the request of the Commission, I did a study, a re-examination of the Fourteenth Amendment with respect to state discriminatory laws and practices with regard to sex. I urged … remember that this is 1962 … urged that the Fourteenth Amendment be used, using the civil rights precedents, to take advantage of the civil rights precedents, to make the Fourteenth Amendment clearly applicable to discrimination, state enforced governmental discrimination because of sex. My strategy there was that up until that time, there had been almost no possibility of the ratification of an Equal Rights Amendment and that what we ought to do in the meantime, since there didn't seem to be an opportunity for a breakthrough … I was not per se opposed to an Equal Rights Amendment. I just felt that it was unrealistic to suppose that it would happen anytime soon and that we should take advantage of the Fourteenth Amendment. In practical history, this is exactly what has happened. We are still four states short of an Equal Rights Amendment, but a significant number of cases have increasingly made applicable the Fourteenth Amendment to sex discrimination as well as race discrimination. I don't want to push that too far because it has not gone as far as it should. It has not gone as far as … the Supreme Court has not yet ruled that sex discrimination per se is constitutionally suspect, as it has done in the case of race.

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But in the meanwhile, we have pushed it quite far, so when you asked me what was the significance of that experience, I think that that approach to the Fourteenth Amendment, while awaiting in a sense to get an Equal Rights Amendment has had some value.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, did you use your thesis at California as the basis for any of your work with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?
PAULI MURRAY:
My thesis at California was …there was a twenty-five year span between them and the Equal Employment Opportunity was just in its rudimentary stage. What I did do at the EEOC, which was purely gratuitous in a sense, I was troubled by the fact that while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its public stance and in its relationship to employers and labor unions and I guess employment agencies, took a fairly good position on equal opportunity without regard to sex …
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
PAULI MURRAY:
…that it was enforcing the law of equal opportunity, but that when you looked at its own internal structure, you saw that it was as guilty if not more guilty than employers in its employment policy in relation to race and sex. So, I made the same kind of chart for the structure of EEOC that EEOC had made with respect to employers and showed that blacks and women were concentrated in the lower spots, that women were not being given an opportunity for moving into policy-making positions in accordance with their ability. This little document, I understand, bumped around the office. I didn't stay long enough to see it implemented but it was at least my contribution. [Laughter]

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GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, as the Stulberg Professor of Law and Politics at Brandeis, do you feel that it was simply your presence as a black female holding that position that was the most significant, or that the students that you influenced and their subsequent careers was most significant? What did you feel?
PAULI MURRAY:
I think that all of these factors played a role.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, it is '68 through '73, is that correct?
PAULI MURRAY:
Right. Five years. I think …number one, I developed a legal studies program at the undergraduate level. This was in line with what has been a trend within the last five or six years. It was just beginning at the time that I went to Brandeis, an effort to bring back into the liberal arts program some exposure to legal education. It has been criminal that people should go through four years of liberal arts education and come out utterly ignorant of a system which touches their lives at every important point from birth to death. So that this was a kind of pioneer effort that was almost wholly independent of being black or a female or anything else. I mean, it had its own justification. Secondly, I discovered inadvertantly that I was a role model and I began my legal education classes with very few female students, mostly male students who saw themselves as pre-law students. Gradually, my classes began to fill up with women and women beginning to discover that they had aptitudes for law. I had such things as students who had started out in anthropology, psychology majors, English majors, suddenly coming to me at the end of their senior year and saying, "We took the law school apptitude test and we did pretty well and would you give me a recommendation to go to law school." So, this was entirely unexpected.

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GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Did you have any black female students that you had contact with?
PAULI MURRAY:
Only a few. This was a period when many black students were very much involved with African and Afro-American studies. I thought unfortunately so. I felt that they ought always to take a major in the traditional curriculum and then supplement that with courses in African and Afro-American studies and then if they wished to do African and Afro-american studies, to do it at the graduate level. But to always have this traditional thing that they could fall back on or that would enrich, would give them skills that they could use.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Of course, I guess that it's obvious to us now, hindsight always gives us more wisdom, but the fascination of King, Stokely Carmichael, Black Power and the whole thing …
PAULI MURRAY:
I do want to say, however, that I had several black students, both male and female, who were crackerjacks and who went on to law school and who have, I think, done very well.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now finally, in terms of career, it is very interesting to me that you have returned to writing, but more significantly that in 1973, you resigned the professorship to become a candidate for the priesthood, or at least to become a seminarian, first at General Theological Seminary and then at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia and what I would like to know, is there any connection between your decision to become a seminarian and ultimately seek ordination to the priesthood and your concern about sex discrimination in the United States and if so, what? If not, is this at all connected with your general pioneering efforts in the struggle for societal change?

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PAULI MURRAY:
This question about the relationship to sex discrimination is one which I have asked myself. I think I can honestly say, "No. It is not directly connected, or it was not directly motivated by my interest in sex discrimination." When I applied to become a candidate for Holy Orders, the reading that I had at that time, in early 1973, was a very positive and encouraging one in respect to women in the priesthood. Therefore, I did not expect, I completely miscalculated the controversy that was to arise as a result of the non-decision of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the fall of 1973. I think that I can truthfully say that my decision to become a candidate for Holy Orders is much more closely related to my feeling of standing in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and my strong conviction that basically, all of these problems of human rights in which I had been involved for most of my adult life, sex, race, all of the problems of human rights, that basically these were moral and spiritual problems. And I think that I was driven more into this position when I saw that the particular profession to which I had devoted the larger sector of my life, law, was …that we had reached a point where law could not give us the answers. You know, here we are, the busing controversy in Boston. I began to see women, feminists, behaving in the same hostile extreme way that I had seen black militants. Instead of the possibilities of reconciliation, there seemed to be even greater and greater alienation and to me it was important to keep the tradition of Martin Luther King alive and this all seemed to point toward my witnessing where my conviction was. And if my conviction is a spiritual conviction, then I should witness in that way and make it clear where I am standing. Moreover, it seemed to me as I looked back over my life that I was being

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pointed in the direction of the priesthood or service to the church. It seemed to me that it came out in my writings, it came out in my speeches, it came out in my rather steadfast devotion to the notion of reconciliation as well as liberation. I asked myself, "What do you want to do with the time that you have left?" This seems to be the answer.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, when you speak of the tradition of Martin Luther King, you are emphasizing primarily what? The notion of nonviolence and Christian love, brotherhood or what?
PAULI MURRAY:
It seemed to me that Martin Luther King stood for two things. He stood for liberation, which is the contemporary term, but he also stood for the possibility of reconciliation between people, among peoples. He was not satisfied to merely enter into the struggle. He would call it, and in Christian terms we would call it, "salvation." After he died, the notion of reconciliation was almost discarded in the black militant stance. My feeling is that if this country is to survive, we must live together in harmony and we must live together in a spirit of harmony, you can call it brotherhood or whatnot. We cannot survive as a divided country. Therefore, there is a need for people to be involved with and concerned about reconciliation even as we are working on liberation. One's concern for reconciliation … [interruption] …I was saying that there is a need for people who are as concerned about reconciliation as they are liberation from racism or from sexism and one's concern about reconciliation will affect the quality and the way in which one approaches the problem of liberation. This is where I am today.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, for the final section of the interview, I would like to return to your writings and explore something that we have already

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explored during various times in the interview and that is really the development of your socio-political, perhaps religious, consciousness or spiritual consciousness and your personal evolution. All of your writings are of great interest, yet certainly there have been particular empathies. I think that racism, sex discimination, the relations between the two and then of course, the broader matter of human rights would be key themes in your writings, whether they be law journal articles or poetry. If I might return to your words, I would like to ask you to respond candidly to several questions which came to my mind as I read articles and poems, which I believe would be of general interest to persons who are aware of the serious nature of the problems of our society now. Although as a historian I don't focus on any "great man" or "great person" theories and I don't emphasize Hegelian world historical figures, it is obvious or seems to be an obvious truism that it is the development of individuals personally in various directions that compels them to involve themselves in causes or movements, etc. and that this kind of thing and the development of consciousness combined with action is what makes change and progress possible. So finally, these questions have to do with, again, your personal development. First of all, your first activities were clearly focused, it seems to me, on the struggle for the liberation of black people in America, or Afro-Americans or Negroes or whatever you would like to use, and the recognition of their rights as human beings. Words from Dark Testament again come to mind and I'm quoting you: "Of us who darkly stand, beared to the spittle of every curse, nor left the dignity of beasts, let none say, ‘those were not men, but cowards all.’ Better our seed rot on the ground and our hearts burn to ash than the years be empty of our imprint."

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The first question is, how literally did you mean this when you wrote it? These are strong words from which one might infer that you are equating protest for recognition of one's humanity, or one's personhood, with valuable or worthy existence. Is this the case or am I totally off when I say this? And I'm not saying that protest is militancy, it is simply protest.
PAULI MURRAY:
If you link that with the final passage, which is sort of my credo, "We have no other dream, no land but this, with slow deliberate hands, these years have set her image on our brow, we are her seed, have born a seed native and pure as unblemished cotton. Then let the dream linger on …" and that's the dream of freedom …" Let it be the test of nations. Let it be the quest of all our days, the fevered pounding of our blood, the measure of our souls. That none shall rest in any land and none return to dreamless sleep, no heart be quited, no tongue be stilled until the final man may stand in any place and thrust his shoulders to the sky, friend and brother to every other man." Now, I had to read the whole thing so that one would see that this is part of a piece. I am saying that we must accept the challenge of our existence. Our existence being that of a rejected, unwanted, persecuted minority and that in a sense, we cannot accept this. We must make our contribution to history. Remember, I am writing this in 1943, but that the way in which we do this, this constant insistence …no word is mentioned of violence …"No heart be quited, no tongue be still." If I may be slightly profane against what I consider fairly profound expression, I would say, "Don't shoot them, worry them to death." It is this notion of never letting this principle, never letting this dream die, always expressing it in our lives, in our being.

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The goal being, that the final man, whoever the final man is, not necessarily blacks, whoever the underdog is, that that person may stand up and feel a sense of dignity and relatedness to other people. The fact that I end with "friend and brother to every other man," is again a pointer toward where I am now. My feminist sisters might say that this is not at all a feminist poem, but these were in the days when I was using "men" as generic, you see.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes. I was going to ask you a question about that later in the interview, now if I may go back just a little bit to the issue of racial struggle, I'm interested …was Dark Testament and the political activities that ensued and had to do with racial justice, something born of a personal need, a feeling about things that had been done to blacks close to you because of racism, something having to do with vindication of the race, or anything such as that or a combination of all of these things, that moved you to participate in the issue of the poll tax, restrictive covenants, segregation of accomodations and things such as that?
PAULI MURRAY:
I think the same thing that made me write poetry, Dark Testament, the same kind of …I don't know whether to call it fire, the same kind of unrest, the same kind of response to situations, made me participate in activities. I'm inclined to think that when I could effectively act, I did not write. When I could not act, when I was blocked from acting, it came out in words. It had to come out in some way and being both a person who is moved to express in words as well as in the body, that very often it took both forms, but that in each case, I was striving for the highest form of action. I didn't say that I achieved it, but that

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I was striving for the highest form of action. Therefore, when I wrote poetry, I did not want to write at a coarse and profane level, but I wanted to use language in its most distilled sense. If you see what I mean?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes. In going through and reading, I think of someone else who wrote about the connection, in writing a preface to one of your books, the connection between a lawyer's use of language and a poet's use of language, it's the same kind of expression.
PAULI MURRAY:
And our poets are said to be our prophets. When you begin to talk about prophets, then you begin to move into the field of religion. The prophetic role of the minister to proclaim the Word and, unlike, some black poets, I chose to take what I believe to be my mother tongue, namely the English language, and try to utilize it in what I considered its most distilled sense. In other words, to use the language of the oppressor in its most effective side. Not necessarily to use the colloquium of the group with which I am identified with racially, although you will find in Dark Testament little phrases indicating that what I tried to do was to experiment with the various rhythms of Negro speech and occasionally a little of the local and colloquial speech. But basically, to utilize the tool of language, to take the weapon of white Americans, to take the language of white America and use it as a tool, an instrument, a weapon.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now I find that not only in your poetry, but also in your law journal articles and in articles that have been reprinted in other anthologies, not only with regard to race but with regard to sex discrimination and a combination of sex and race discrimination, that you tend to use language as a weapon. With regard to sex discrimination, you've

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been referred to as a militant feminist and I wonder if that's how you perceive yourself and if so, did you begin to perceive yourself as a militant feminist at the point at which you finally felt sexism personally, or if this was something that happened later in your life, or if this is not relevant at all as far as you are concerned?
PAULI MURRAY:
To say that one is a militant feminist is a kind of relative term. In 1962, I might have been considered a militant feminist. In 1976, I might be considered a very moderate or even conservative feminist, if you follow me, because events may move people to take far more radical positions than I will take. I am radical to the extent that I want to see the individual human being as free as is possible to fulfull that individual human being's potential, creative potential. I am not …let's say that radical feminists are usually today, in our society, identified as white. I personally have two problems, that is, two problems that are built in. I must always be concerned, not theoretically, but I must be involved with and necessarily concerned with racial liberation. But I must also personally be concerned with sexual liberation, because as I often say, the two meet in me, the two meet in any individual who is both woman and a member of an oppressed group or a minority group.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now that is exactly related to a question that I wanted to ask you, about an article that you wrote in 1970 called, "The Liberation of Black Women." In this piece, you discuss the double victimization of black women by "the twin immoralities of Jane Crow and Jim Crow." Now first of all, as background, I would like to say that in 1965 you co-authored an article entitled, "Jane Crow and the Law: Discrimination and Title VII."

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In that particular article, the two of you seemed to rely heavily on Ashley Montague and Blanche Crozier in saying that racial and sex discrimination were either strikingly parallel or comparable. First of all, I would like you to comment on that and then I would like to move on to the arguments that you made in 1970 about double victimization.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, one common parallel factor about race and sex discrimination are that they are biological. They are biologically permanent characteristics of the person. Age is not necessarily biologically permanent. You grow from a child to adult, an alien may become a citizen, a person who is in one profession may move over to another, but where you have a permanent characteristic, i.e., color, race or sex, it is on the basis of one's birth that one becomes a member of that caste, so to speak. It is completely imposed upon one and there is no way that one can escape except as the society is changed.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, do you consider that to be caste? In '65, the two of you considered this sort of comparable to class, at least you said.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, we may have talked about class in '65, but it has become increasingly clear that as people have gone more deeply into the whole problem of sex …we were kind of out there on the frontier almost, of our particular era …but more and more women feminist scholars are beginning to see sex as a caste, because you are born into it. Now, I don't say that race and sex are identical. I do say that they have certain comparable characteristics. I would describe it as, let us say, a kind of a graph. At one end of the spectrum there are issues and problems that are exclusively racial. Uniquely racial. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are problems and issues which are uniquely sexual, but in

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the middle, they tend to overlap, there tend to be problems that are common to both groups, such as discrimination in employment or in educational opportunities or failure to be represented in the public structures of authority, judgeships, government. There are similar kinds of arguments used to justify discrimination against these groups. In addition to these, however, women, because they are half of the human race have a rather peculiar situation of being represented both in the oppressed and oppressor classes, but nevertheless, having problems which are common as women. So that a given woman may share the benefits and priviliged position of the class to which she belongs and she may belong to the privileged class and the oppressor class. So in one sense, she shares as the oppressor but on the other hand, she also has problems which are identical to all women. She shares with women these in a universal and worldwide situation. This is not quite the case of race and certainly of the males of the race. So that a woman of minority status shares the problems of the oppressed group, of which she is a part, but she also shares the problems of all women and the depressed status of women is a universal status. Now, I don't know whether this is making sense to you, but it is because when one stands at the juncture of these two problems, you can see the interrelationships, which

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is almost impossible for a male, particularly a black male to see, he can't quite understand why a black woman will take a militant feminist position because he is concentrating on race, whereas her problem extends beyond her mere racial status.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Now, in direct connection with that, I would like to quote four arguments that you made in 1970 in the article on the liberation of black women and I'd like you to remark upon these arguments in light of what we know now about the surveillance of private citizens, the infiltration of black groups, Watergate, the rising overt racism that has been perceived in this country, high unemployment, the recession or depression, depending on what race you are. I'd like to know if you still argue these same points or what would be different about your arguments. They are the following: "Black women have an equal stake in women's liberation and black liberation. They are the key figures at the juncture of these two movements. White women feminists are their natural allies in both causes. Black women have a special stake in the revolt against the treatment of women primarily as sex objects, for their own history has left them with scars of brutal and degrading sexual exploitation." And finally,

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an argument that you made in concurrence with Caroline Ware, that "an aggressive ethnocentric movement which disregards the interests of other disadvantaged groups will be one which is self-defeating and only a broad movement for human rights can insure the black revolution's ultimate success."
PAULI MURRAY:
I am not sure that I would alter that statement in any significant regard except to say that I have been enlightened by the theologian, a Roman Catholic theologian, Rosemary Reuther, who is a Professor of Theology at Howard University. She is, from her side of the fence, as interested I think, in the relationship between sex and race as I am from my side of the fence. And she makes the point, she discusses the whole business of the liberation of women and she …let me read what she says, because I don't like to … "In fact, racism and sexism have been closely interrelated historically, especially in the American South, but they have not been exactly parallel. Rather we should recognize them as interstructural elements of oppression within the overarching system of male domination, white male domination. But this interstructuring of oppression by sex, race and also class, creates intermediate tensions and alienations between white women and black women, between black men and white women and even between black men

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and black women. Each group tends to suppress the experience of its racial and sexual counterparts. The black movement talks as though blacks mean black males and in so doing, it conceals the tensions between black males and black females. The women's movement fails to integrate the experience of black and poor women and so fails to see that much of what it means by ‘female experience’ is confined to those women within the dominant class and race. Protests which arise from the oppression of poor blacks are harvested by middle class blacks without noticing the discrepancy." She goes on to say that white women, who are feminists, must recognize that black women or other nonwhite women have their particular problems and agenda and must allow for this within, a sense, the overall movement toward women's liberation. So, what I suggested in 1970 was that black women needed to take a leadership role in the feminist movement, so as constantly to keep before white women the problem that these two, in a sense, liberations must take place together.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
But do you still believe that the natural allies are of necessity white women? Or women, let's say as opposed to the natural allies being simply nonwhite peoples?
PAULI MURRAY:
Natural allies are people who have comparable

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problems and can in some coalition support your problems as you are supporting their problems. This is what I mean by natural allies. I do believe that white women who are …who understand what it means to have a diminished personhood, a diminished sense of personal dignity and worth because of one's sex, do have a basic stand from which to understand a little bit better what it means to be a black. Because if you rip away everything, the business of oppression is the business of not respecting one's personhood. People may be as poor as churchmice, as you have seen in Africa, the man who has only one cloth to wear on a Sunday walks with great dignity because he has a sense of his own person. To that extent of which women have been robbed of that sense of their own person, they may be dressed in furs and fed to the gills, but basically …this is what they mean when they say, ‘women as niggers’ …basically it is the sense of human dignity and personhood which is ignored. What I'm saying is that there is the basis of alliance.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
But is there not a problem and it hinges on a word that you used …you said "women that understand." In the United States, the …
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

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PAULI MURRAY:
…saying that the media is so controlled.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, and publication is so controlled in this country that although women may temporarily be able to commit themselves to a movement for women's liberation, or whatever, that white women live in a country where one can move to the point of rationalizing just being white and there are enough women who could do that, such that those who understood would not be in sufficient numbers to provide the necessary allies for any sort of real fundamental change in society.
PAULI MURRAY:
If we accept this, there is no hope. For never forget that if you are talking about the black minority, you are talking about one as against nine and the black minority will never be able to achieve liberation.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
As a minority.
PAULI MURRAY:
As a minority.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Is there to your mind less feasibility in what is generally considered the socialist option, and that is the consciousness-raising of working class people, so that they understand how they are depersonalized and dehumanized and thus they would become the allies? Do you see that there is more possibility of women understanding or working class people who soon become, to use a Marxian term, the proletariat and the unemployed?

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PAULI MURRAY:
My remark should not suggest that I meant that women exclusively were allies. I am writing in the context of a feminist approach and I am talking about women. When you raise the question of working class people, certainly working class people should be natural allies of blacks, particularly in terms of poor blacks and working class blacks. But let me point out that perhaps machismo is strongest in the working class sector. I have reached that point in my conviction where being a woman is perhaps a more complex and more difficult status than being a black. First of all, it is the oldest, the most continuous, the most recalcitrant, the most stubborn kind of prejudice and oppression, if you want to use that term. It is thoroughly supported by the most authoritative kind of thing that can be drawn to support it, namely, Holy Scriptures. In other words …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Well, one can use Holy Scriptures to support almost anything.
PAULI MURRAY:
Right, but Holy Scripture …what I'm suggesting here is that the church, the church which one would expect to be on the side of the oppressed, on the side of human dignity, on the side of human equality, sexism calls in God as its authority. Incidentally, this is the whole thing, the basic theological argument in barring women from the

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priesthood, that God represents the male principle, that Jesus Christ Himself was a male and that he selected male apostles and therefore that it is impossible for a woman to represent Christ. Do you see, what I'm trying to show you here is how …there is nothing more potent, in a sense, than religious authority. I mean, you can have political authority and whatnot, but that can be challenged, but when you begin to try to bring God down as your …well, all I am saying is that when I read my black theologian colleagues on liberation and see how utterly steeped they are in an almost exclusively male concept to the extent that they completely ignore women, or the point of view of women, I realize that we cannot …that there is no way that I can limit the struggle to a racial struggle or a struggle that does not take into account the issues and problems of sexism. Whether this struggle be carried on within the group, not making alliances with white women, it still must be carried on. I prefer to always keep open the channels for dialogue and communication with white women.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I guess that in the same sense, the socialist has the same dilemma. I mean, after all, where do you find the greatest and most intense racism except among working class

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people at very difficult times when they know that there can be no one under them except black people and you have to make a choice at some point as to whether or not you will keep open the channels so that at some point you may reach a few individuals, because after all, one has no cadres, no movements, no reforms or change or revolution without reaching individuals. That's the only way that it can be done. Just a few more questions. The verse which follows refers, I'm sure, to both black and white men and women, although the antecedent to it is "sons of drivers and sons of slaves," it's part of Dark Testament, written in 1943. I'm struck by the concept of a common plight of Americans when you wrote the following lines: "This is our portion, this is our testament, this is America, dual-brained creature. One hand thrusting us out to the stars, one hand shoving us down in the gutter." Now, I guess that there are two questions that I have that relate to that. The first one is, will your ordination, your subsequent and ultimate ordination into the priesthood restrict your activities with regard to human rights or make them more difficult? Because you are becoming part of an institution, or taking part in a religion, which you yourself have described as constraining because of such problems as sexual discrimination and the way

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that has been used in the church. If law isn't the answer, and you said that law is not the answer and I think that we can say that …
PAULI MURRAY:
Shall we say that law has its limitations?
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Yes, law has its limitations, law can protect us in certain instances, but it certainly cannot solve all the problems. Then turning to the church, is in a sense, to turn to a belief in either a sense of morality or the capacity for a sense of morality and to say something about the conscience of America. What I really wonder is if you simply insist on believing that America has a conscience, but it is simply repressed somewhere, or if you really think that the things that have been said are in fact its ideals, and that one can appeal to what is right, what is ethical and achieve within at least a generation or so some sort of significant change?
PAULI MURRAY:
I think I had better start by saying that this is not turning to the church, in a sense. My …from earliest childhood, I have always been a part of the church. There have been times when I have left it, but I have always more or less been in some way involved with the church. At this stage of my life, I perhaps am thinking more of what

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Paul Tillich calls "man's ultimate concern," of which racial liberation, sex liberation, human rights, are perhaps less ultimate concerns. They are important and significant and a part of our whole business of the Second Commandment, but I think perhaps as one gets both older and begins realistically to think of the ultimate of one's own destiny, which is death, that one does begin to think in perhaps a more concentrated way about one's relationship to the ultimate, of which all of this is a part. And it is in that sense that I begin to realize that universally, all of mankind is constantly falling down from these high ideals which we have set, that racism and sexism are actually sins, the sickness of sin, that human beings are not really in harmony in relationship to their Creator, and since they are not, they are not able to be in harmony and relationship to love and respect their neighbor. So, I'm not even sure that I …I'm not even sure, for example, that America will win this. I'm not even sure that America isn't like the Israel of the Old Testament, that she is not standing under the judgement of God, if we want to use theological language. William Stringfellow has used the Book of Revelation and called America the Babylon, you see.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I was just going to ask you if you thought it

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was not Israel, but more like Babylon.
PAULI MURRAY:
I have even said and preached that the women's ordination movement in the Episcopal Church may in fact be a prophetic movement like the prophets of the Old Testament, of the Eighth Century B.C. saying, in a sense, "You are standing under judgement and Israel will be destroyed." So, what I'm really trying to say is that it is perhaps deeper than thinking that America, the entity America, will have a conscience, will ever solve the racial problem. I frankly don't know.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
So, it's not an issue any longer of being optimistic about America, it's a more personal issue, more personal in what you do with your own life and that you do what you think is the best thing to do in relationship to what you feel is right?
PAULI MURRAY:
I suppose …you know, as you ask me these questions, you must remember that there will be certain limitations on whatever activities I make. I am not the vigorous, you know, swashbuckling activist of my thirties. How one feels and how one acts and how one can use one's energies in one's sixties may be quite different from what one does in the thirties. I don't think that I will basically change in terms of my thrust for human rights, human dignity,

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the interrelatedness of all these things. I think that there may be considerable difference in how I use my energies.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I was just thinking in terms of the fact that obviously there are physical restraints that come of age, but the disciplinary restraint of the priesthood, of being in the priesthood, especially of the Episcopal Church, which is not the same kind of institution, say, as a Baptist Church. This means that you can be less individualistic in expressing the …
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, well of course, the whole Christian religion is a community, a religion of community. All of us, you, I having been baptized according to the Christian faith are members of the royal priesthood of all believers. The church, the Christian church, Baptist, Methodist, whatever it is, the Christian church is the priesthood of all believers. Those of us who become ordained clergy merely have special ministries within this general ministry of the Christian church. This is the doctrine of the Christian church, not of the Episcopal Church, but of the Christian church. Yes, there probably will be discipline. I hope that I will continue to do what I have tried to do most of my life and that is, when there was a principle which I felt I ought to act on, I did

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not stand in fear of consequences.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
There is something else that I personally wanted to ask. Is your commitment to the ministry in any way an indication of some belief that rational analysis, persuasion and activism are not in and of themselves sufficient? That if indeed there is to be a world that holds all people as equals, as brothers, as people of worth, dignity, with rights, that there must be, that there essentially will have to be something more than rational analysis?
PAULI MURRAY:
Something more than …
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
More than rational analysis. Well, it's clear that …
PAULI MURRAY:
Yes, well, it's this whole question of man's relationship to the ultimate, and if he doesn't have that, then all else stands on a shaky foundation. What you've just asked me, rational analysis is man trying to be God. The Christian faith says that there is only one God and that man cannot be God, that man is a created being, he is a creature and is totally dependent upon God. This is why ultimately …I mean, this is why a person like myself would probably tend to try to move toward ultimates. I am not at all sure that there is anything inconsistent with this kind of Christian commitment and the goal of liberation. If you have been aware of the various liberation

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theologies, today the emphasis is upon social salvation rather than individual salvation. This does not mean to rule out individual salvation, but to say that you simply almost can't have individual salvation unless you are concerned with social salvation.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
Once again, I would like to turn to what has become one of my favorite poems, I think that there is a strong conviction even in 1943, that the struggle was neither for black liberation, from white oppression and racism or a battle of males against females, rather a struggle of those who believe in freedom, justice, equality or equitable treatment as an aspect of human rights. This is as significant as food, shelter and clothing, against those who would maintain that these should be set aside for a minority of the oldest inhabitants. That seems to be said to me by the first verse of Dark Testament, in which you say that "Freedom is a dream, haunting as amber wine, a world remembered out of time, not Eden's Gate, but freedom lures us down a trail of skulls where men forever crushed the dreamers, never the dream." This is a strong, poignant part of the poem. I think that it is highly significant of your own consciousness. In fact, it is intriguing to me.

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Black people are not taught that they are equals, women are not taught that they are equals, they are not even taught that they should be vocal leaders, actually. You, a southern woman with a southern experience, even given the possibility of the "New South", have not felt compelled to breed children who would finally call for freedom for everyone. And finally, I think America, despite the rhetoric, despite the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence encased in the archives, has not deliberately taught anyone that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and before we conclude, I wonder if you would like to comment generally on where you started and why you hold firm and fight and endure now, or if you have already answered that, by simply saying that it has to do with your ultimate concern.
PAULI MURRAY:
One comment on America: I cannot speak for America. I can speak for one American. This has to do with personal responsibility. Major J. Jones, who is one of the black theologians. I think that he is dean of Gammon Theological Institute down in Atlanta, Georgia, and he wrote a book on a sense of ethics to go with black theology. He talked of assuming a stance of freedom. He also talked of black Americans

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appropriating unclaimed freedoms, meaning by that that there were certain freedoms that had been won, either through the courts or through struggle that we have not really latched on to and taken to their …made their fullest utilization. But the other thing was, he said that in a sense, the idea of assuming the stance of freedom was acting as if one is free. Simply assuming, acting upon the assumption that one is as free as anyone else, and suggested the surprising difference it would make in the reaction of other people to one, perhaps almost in the ground of freedom that one occupies. So, what I guess that I am trying to say are two things. That as one begins to assume that one is equal to other people, not superior or inferior, but equal, as a human being, one does begin to act in such a way as to …one does begin to feel free. Let me put it that way. One will run into specific instances constantly where one is conscious of barriers and limitations to one's freedom, but I suppose that it is really a kind of spiritual freedom and if you don't have the sense of being free spiritually, nothing but nothing in the way of legal freedoms or other freedoms will matter. When I said that I can speak for only one American, I cannot persuade or force other Americans to live up to this dream, but I do have a personal responsibility for doing my part to make this dream

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come true as much as possible. And that is tied up with this sense of, as I say, of acting as if one is free, because I feel as fully an American as anyone else, this is my country, nobody will rob me of my birthright. I have as much right to speak as an American as anyone else. Then I have a responsibility. Irrespective of what America does to me, I have a responsibility to act in accordance with that dream, which takes my allegiance and which is in harmony with my religious faith. Continuance may very well have something to do with the ultimate. If one believes that man's destiny is confined to this planet, this existence, then perhaps it is a matter almost of life or death as to whether or not we can achieve these goals within our existence. If one believes that man's destiny may not be limited to this existence, one has a higher destiny, man has a higher destiny. This existence of struggle or goals or human rights for the dignity of man will go on whether one is personally successful or not, but in the process one may be preparing, trying to prepare oneself for higher destiny. And therefore …and the second thing, is of course, that we are not in control of this. All we can do is act and leave the results to God. So I don't know where I will come out. This new experience …in some ways it seems to be maybe a culmination. In some ways it seems that everything in

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my life was pointing toward it. I don't know. I have been and am a person of extremely strong individualistic will and what I am learning is to try to let God's will be the determining factor and this is a great struggle.
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I think that you have been most kind in answering so many questions and spending so much time with me and somehow, it is not even sufficient to simply say "Thank you," for myself or for the Southern Oral History Program. I wonder if you might do one thing for me and then if you care to, you might also for yourself for the conclusion of this interview, select something that you would either like to read or make a final statement. But I would like you to read for us again, the very final verse of Dark Testament.
PAULI MURRAY:
"Then let the dream linger on. Let it be the test of nations. Let it be the quest of all our days. The fevered pounding of our blood, the measure of our souls, that none shall rest in any land and none return to dreamless sleep, no harp be quieted, no tongue be stilled, until the final man may stand in any place and thrust his shoulders to the sky, friend and brother to every other man."

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GENNA RAE McNEIL:
I would again like to express my appreciation to Dr. Murray for this interview and then there is one other point that she would like to make and we would both like to call it, perhaps, an addendum to this interview. It has to do with women and black women and all people, really. They are the words of Sojourner Truth and I shall let Dr. Murray continue from there.
PAULI MURRAY:
Well, earlier in the interview, you were asking me about heroes and at some point I had wanted to say to you that my great heroine, I suppose that my great heroine of this century was Eleanor Roosevelt, but my great heroine of the nineteenth century, and you will see that her picture is hanging over my bed, is Sojourner Truth. Sojourner Truth was a slave and eventually, an emancipated slave, but she had a tremendous insight and appreciation into the women's movement and was one of the foremost spokesmen for the women's movement as well as the abolition movement in the nineteenth century. And one of her most famous statements is known as "Aren't I a Woman?" Now, this comes from her biography, Sojourner Truth, Narrative and Book of Life, which is put out by Ebony Classics and it is written in dialect. I'm not sure that I can present it properly, but I'd like to try and I'd like to end our interview

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on this. She is at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio I think about 1851 and she is sitting there listening to the debate and listening to what some male detractor has had to say. She gets up and moves to the rostrum and there is a hissing sound of disapprobation as she moves to the rostrum. Nevertheless, she stands there, tall, Amazon in form, speaking in deep tones, which although they weren't very loud, reached every ear in the house. And this is what she said: "Well, chillern, where dere is so much racket, dere mus' be sumpin out of kilter. I think that twixt the niggers of the South and the women of the North all talkin' 'bout rights, the white man will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all dis here talk about? Dat man over dere say dat a woman needs to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches and to have the best place everywha. Nobody ever helped me into carriages or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and aren't I a woman? Look at me, look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head me, and aren't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man, when I could git it, and bared the lash as well, and aren't I a woman? I have born thirteen children and seen most all sold in slavery and when I cried

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out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard, and aren't I a woman? Den dey talks about dis t'ing in de head. What's dis dey call it, intellect? Dat's it, honey. What's dat got to do with women's rights or nigger's rights. If my cup won't hold but a pint and your's holds a quart, wouldn't ye be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?"
GENNA RAE McNEIL:
We have come to the end of our visit with Dr. Pauli Murray, a very singular person in this age, a poet who could write words from Dark Testament, as you have heard, who has written about blackness and personhood in Proud Shoes and who has, at this point in her life, begun a new journey moving toward what she considers to be her personal responsibility. I think that all of us, not only myself, not only those of the Program, but also those who will hear the interview, read the transcript later, would like to wish her well in this journey, and perhaps an appropriate end to this interview would be a quotation from scripture and simply say to Dr. Murray, as was said to Esther, "Who knows but what thou hast come for such a time as this."
END OF INTERVIEW
1. On January 8, 1977, she was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.
cum laude
Gaines