Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray

Article excerpt

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray. By Rosalind Rosenberg. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xviii, 494. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19 065645-4.)

Kathryn Schulz's April 27, 2017, New Yorker profile, "The Many Lives of Pauli Murray," described Pauli Murray as an "architect of the civil-rights struggle--and the women's movement" and asked, "Why haven't you heard of her?" Scholars protested that many had studied and written on Murray. A JSTOR search backs their claims, yielding more than two thousand references to her in academic publications. But scholars' treatments of Murray thus far have addressed her life and its milestones in pieces. Rosalind Rosenberg's exquisite volume brings Murray into focus in whole and in context.

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray follows Murray through the major social justice campaigns of the twentieth century. Bom in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1910, and raised in Durham, North Carolina, she played key roles in the labor, civil rights, and feminist movements. As an activist and a law professor, Murray found overlooked potential in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments as tools for building social equality. She also framed the concept of "Jane Crow" to analogize race and sex discrimination (p. 261). Murray helped establish the National Organization for Women and was the first African American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. After her death in 1985, theorists drew from Murray's ideas about how race and sex are "interconnected" as they developed the concept of intersectionality (p. 370). Jane Crow gives these achievements due attention, but it also presents less familiar details of Murray's life: she hitchhiked cross-country by car and rail, taught law in Ghana, worked as a journalist and poet, and was a longtime breadwinner for the aunts who raised her.

Rosenberg argues that Murray's sense of herself as "someone in between" social categories spurred and shaped her persistent activism (p. 5). Murray's ancestors included white slaveholders, enslaved African Americans, and freedpeople whose light complexions permitted many of them to melt undetected into white society. Her class status was similarly ambiguous. …

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