Pauli Murray was born on November 20, 1910, in Baltimore, Maryland. Murray received a BA from Hunter College in 1933, a JD law degree from Howard University in 1944, an LLM law degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1945, and a JSD law degree from Yale Law School in 1965. Murray was the first African American to receive a doctorate in jurisprudence from Yale. A lawyer, academic, and civil rights activist, Murray became an Episcopal priest in 1977.
Murray authored two autobiographies and the poetry collection Dark Testament and Other Poems, released by Silvermine Publishers in 1970 and reissued by Liveright in 2018.
Murray’s poems, Ed Pavlić wrote, “Testify to her brave rebellion, and to the identities—transracial, transgender, transhistorical—that are more visionary now than ever.”
Murray spent a lifetime grappling with gender stereotypes and expectations. According to the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, “Murray actively used the phrase ‘he/she personality’ in correspondence with family members during the early years of their life. Later, in journals, essays, letters and autobiographical works, Pauli employed ‘she/her/hers’ pronouns.”
Murray taught at University of Ghana School of Law in Accra, as well as at Brandeis and Yale. Murray died in Pittsburgh on July 1, 1985.