OURS IS NO BEDTIME STORY – Pauli Murray’s Dark Testament reintroduces a major Black poet.
BY ED PAVLIĆ in Poetry Foundation
“Please don’t refer to me as ‘Mother Murray,’” Pauli Murray chided a reporter from the New Haven Register in 1977. The newspaper was running a story about the then-67-year-old Murray becoming the first African-American woman ordained an Episcopal priest. The achievement was another first in what had been a trailblazing life marked by both triumph and strife.
In June of 1965, Murray became the first Black person to earn a JSD (doctorate in the Science of Law) from Yale Law School. This came more than two decades after the University of North Carolina Graduate School denied her admission in 1938 because she was Black, followed by another denial in 1944 from Harvard Law School because she was a woman. As Rosalind Rosenberg suggests in Jane Crow (2017), a biography of Murray, these setbacks threatened Murray’s livelihood, but they also laid the groundwork for a long career of activism during which Murray sought a constitutional basis for legal challenges against racial and gender discrimination. They also inspired poetry of vast ambition. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE