Monday, July 16, 2012

Durham's Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray Elevated To Episcopal Sainthood

The Episcopal Church voted during its General Convention this month to include Durham reared Pauli Murray in Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. Murray is honored as a saint for her advocacy of the universal cause of freedom and as the first African American female priest ordained by the Episcopal Church.

Pauli Murray
St. Titus’ Episcopal and the Pauli Murray Project are hosting the annual celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray on Wednesday, July 18 @6:30 p.m. at 400 Moline Street, Durham to mark the occasion. Bishop Michael Curry will serve as the celebrant and Rev. Roxane Gwyn will offer the sermon. A choir made up of representatives of Durham’s Episcopal congregations will sing. Everyone is invited to the service and the reception that will follow on the church grounds. “Pauli Murray had an agenda for the human good that was constant and unswerving.” says Bishop Michael Curry, “As a descendent of slaves and slaveholders, people who were members of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, she is a symbol for the importance of bringing different worlds together, even in midst of great pain.”

The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray (1910 – 1985) was a nationally and internationally known advocate for human rights and social justice who grew up with her grandparents Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald on Carroll Street in Durham. She lived at the crossroads of all of the important social movements of 20th Century America.  In 1977 at age 66, she was the first African American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest, offering communion for the first time at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill where her grandmother had been baptized as a slave. Prior to answering this calling, Pauli Murray worked to address injustice and promote reconciliation between races, sexes, and economic classes through her work as an attorney, writer, feminist, poet, and educator. 

Descended from slaves and slave owners, she was a woman ahead of her time. In the 1930s and 40s, she fought against racial segregation in education and public transit. In the 1950s and 1960s, she challenged the Civil Rights Movement to recognize the leadership of women and the double discrimination that minority women face. As a lawyer, policy analyst and legal scholar she defied convention by stubbornly carving out her place in a male-dominated profession. She advised First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on civil rights and co-founded the National Organization for Women. As a same-gender-loving woman she struggled to live her life fully in a world not ready for her inclusive vision of freedom.  A much-accomplished woman, she earned six post-secondary degrees and published four books and numerous articles.

 “Durham can embrace Pauli Murray as an inspiration for our community’s commitment to the struggle for equality, dignity and justice,” says Barbara Lau, director of the Pauli Murray Project. “With this recognition as an Episcopal Saint, even more people will learn about her legacy of activism and the relevance of her ideas to today’s issues.”

The Pauli Murray Project, founded in 2009, is dedicated to lifting up her life and legacy. We promote open dialogue about contemporary issues and their historical roots and we document hidden stories of activism. We celebrate Pauli Murray and continue her work for social change. We are also renovating her childhood home in Durham as a center for dialogue, education, and the arts as well as mobilization for equality and justice.

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