Pauli Murray was an effective advocate for civil rights and gender rights because of her courage, vision, and personal struggles with segregation and gender identity. Her courage is evident from her lifelong commitment to challenge racial and gender segregation, and discrimination through her active participation in the civil rights struggle. Her experiences with segregation and personal identity formed a foundation for her passionate fight for racial and gender equality.
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Murray’s courage gave her the strength to play an active part in the civil rights movement. For example, in 1940, she was arrested for occupying bus seats that were reserved for white people (Shultz). She failed to move, and the bus driver called the police who arrested her. She was jailed and convicted of disorderly conduct. In another instance, she appealed to Harvard’s decision not to admit her because she was a woman. At Howard University, she was the only female in her class. She was never quiet whenever she felt that her rights were being violated in any way. She also spent a lot of energy and time fighting against Jim Crow laws, even though her classmates argued that her idea was reckless and impractical. Another of Murray’s acts of courage was organizing sit-ins that ended segregation in restaurants (Shultz).
Murray was a visionary. Her life was directed by her commitment to bringing an end to Jim Crow laws. She was able to see a time when gender and racial equality would be attained in America, hence her acts of civil disobedience. She regularly challenged actions by institutions that aimed to propagate discrimination and segregation. Her vision is evident from her role in the founding of the National Organization for Women and the co-writing of a law-review article that aided in the implementation of the Equal Protection Clause to include women (Shultz). Her arrest for civil disobedience in Richmond, Virginia, took place two decades before the emergence of the civil rights movement. It was also visionary for Murray to anticipate the Freedom Summer. As a result, she convinced her classmates at Howard University to travel to the south to fight for civil rights (Shultz). Her idea of the indivisibility of her gender came long before Kimberle Williams Crenshaw came up with the word “intersectionality.” Murray believed that her gender could not be divided into different aspects based on her race and her roles as a woman and a worker.
Murray’s achievements as an advocate for civil rights and gender rights can be attributed to the numerous challenges that she faced in her life. For example, her father was killed by a racist guard at Crownsville State Hospital (Shultz). She was denied admission to Columbia and Harvard universities because she was a woman. The majority of the challenges she faced were due to the restrictions placed on African-Americans by Jim Crow laws. The University of North Carolina declined her application because she was African American (Shultz). These and other challenges developed in her commitment to fight the Jim Crow laws that were encouraging segregation and discrimination. She was passionate about fighting for the rights of women because the American Constitution provided for the equality of all citizens regardless of their gender or race. Murray overcame the many obstacles in her way to achieve her goals and become a pioneer in the civil rights movement as well as the fight for women’s rights.
Shultz, Kathryn. “The Many Lives of Pauli Murray.” New Yorker, 2017, Web.