Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray was born on November 20, 1910, in Baltimore, Maryland. Experiences with racism as a young adult led her to activism with the Workers' Defense League and a career as a civil rights lawyer. She attended law school at Howard University, earned an M.A. in law from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a doctorate in juridical science from the Yale University Law School. She later worked at the Ghana School of Law, Benedict College, and Brandeis University and wrote several influential legal texts, including the book States’ Laws on Race and Color and the article “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII” in George Washington Law Review. She served on the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women from 1961 to 1963, co-founded the National Organization for Women in 1966, and coauthored the American Civil Liberties Union brief in the Reed v. Reed Supreme Court case in 1971, which led to one of the first victories for women’s rights in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1977, she became the first Black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. She published two autobiographies, Proud Shoes: The Story Of An American Family and Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, as well as a book of poetry, Dark Testament and Other Poems. She died on July 1, 1985, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her family home is now a National Historic Landmark and she is part of the Episcopal Church's calendar of saints. Recent scholarship has also suggested that Murray may have identified as trans or gender-nonconforming. Profiles of Ten LGBT Activists for Social Justice, 2013/2017, by Rich Wilson provides more about her life and accomplishments.