Preserving the Home of the Woman Who Sought to Desegregate the University of North Carolina

A group of community organizations is teaming up with the Pauli Murray Project at Duke University to purchase and renovate the childhood home of civil rights activist Pauli Murray in Durham, North Carolina. The plan is to turn the house into a museum. The house was built by Murray’s grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald, who was a Civil War veteran.

Pauli Murray was born in 1910. As a young girl she was orphaned and moved to North Carolina to live with relatives. After graduating first in her high school class, she enrolled at Hunter College in New York City. But because of the Great Depression she was forced to leave school to go to work. In 1938, she sought to gain admission to the segregated University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her request was denied and she lost a legal battle to force the university to admit her.

In 1940, 15 years before Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience in Montgomery, Alabama, Murray was arrested in Virginia for refusing to move to the back of a bus to make room for a white rider in the front section. Murray later enrolled and graduated from the Howard University School of Law.

Murray was a co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality and in 1977 became the first woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest.

Murray died in 1985.