*Daring to be bold, daring to be the only Black woman in the room and not shutter when speaking up for women or civil rights – that was Pauli Murray!
Lawyer, writer, author, activist and the first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal Priest. Some may say her boldness and tenacious personality had to do with wanting to be a beacon of light for the generations proceeding her, who were silenced.
“I think most of the people who change the world are trying to heal something that is missing, or something they’ve experienced, some barrier,” said Cinque Northern, the editor and co-writer of the new Amazon Studios original film “I Am Pauli Murray.”
Most of us have never heard of her. Most of us, have no idea the impact and legacy she left behind.
But if you ask some of the most influential civil rights leaders and advocates in American history, like Thurgood Marshall and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they’d likely say Murray’s contribution was immeasurable.
So why isn’t she in any of our textbooks? Well, that’s the question filmmakers tried to resolve.
“They were amazed [saying], ‘why don’t we know about Pauli Murray. And the more they looked her up, the more they decided they wanted to make this film,” said Northern.
He was initially shocked at learning her story as well. She used her voice to write two significant law papers and reviews, changing the course of American civil rights for minorities and women.
“You know how sometimes you know a name, but you don’t know much about them?…I never heard the name. I think history is full of hidden figures,” said Northern.
Murray was still a law student when she wrote a paper backing her unpopular about segregation – more specifically Plessy v. Ferguson. And how it was outdated and time for something new. A decade later, her old professor, who was working on Brown v. The Board of Education, found her paper and used it in that case. It was a key component in successfully overturning the separate but equal law.
Later, she wrote a law review which sparked the interest of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and it was used to convince the Court that women should be covered under The Equal Protection Clause.
She was ahead of her time, and saw the need for change in an area before anyone else was scoping it out.
“I think now is the time to learn from Pauli,” said Northern, recognizing her foresight. “We obviously have a ways to go in all of the areas that Murray fought, but we’ve also come along way. This kind of film…is for the living.”
“My Name Is Pauli Murray” released in theaters September 17th and will be released on Prime Video October 1st, 2021.