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Pauli Murray Childhood Home Becomes A National Historic Landmark

Pauli Murray, National Historic Landmark, Civil Rights, Women's Rights
Leoneda Inge
Pauli Murray's distant cousin, Stephanie Davis, stands near the National Historic Landmark plaque unveiled at Murray's childhood home in Durham.

The childhood home of Pauli Murray in Durham is now a National Historic Landmark. Relatives, community leaders and the Pauli Murray Project celebrated with a homecoming.

The home at 906 Carroll Street was filled with song, poetry, art and accolades over the weekend, remembering the late Pauli Murray, a lawyer, civil rights activist and Episcopal priest. Family member Stephanie Davis addressed hundreds of people, all standing and sitting on the large front lawn in front of the historic two-story house.

“As someone whose family members continue to live on the West End in Durham, this house has always been a symbol of great joy and pride," said Davis.

Davis told the crowd that as a child, she was told about a relative who wrote a book titled, "Proud Shoes."

"Quite honestly, I did not know what she had done. Boy was I in for a revelation! I’m telling you!" Davis said to a cheering crowd.

Murray’s home is North Carolina’s 39th National Historic Landmark and the first focused on women’s and LGBTQ history. Family members and scholars believe Murray's race -- she is African-American -- her gender and her sexuality are likely the reason it has taken so long for her to be recognized.

Murray was the first African-American woman to be ordained an Episcopal Priest and was designated a saint by the church in 2012.

The 'Invocation Poem' at the Pauli Murray National Historic Landmark celebration was performed by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Sangodare Roxanne Wallace.

Proclamations from the City of Durham and Durham County were presented before the unveiling of the National Historic Landmark plaque which reads, "The Rev. Dr. Murray's scholarship and activism profoundly shaped American legal history and advanced the Women's and Civil Rights Movements."

Katherine Malone-France of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was at the celebration.

“You know, Pauli Murray was so many things, an activist, a scholar, a lawyer an educator, a poet, a priest.  But on this occasion, I think it is also important to recognize that she was also a preservationist," said Malone-France.

Malone-France was referring to all the work Murray did to preserve the Fitzgerald Family Cemetery on the hill behind the now historic house. Murray's book, "Proud Shoes," first published in 1956, chronicles the lives of her maternal grandparents, Cornelia Smith and Robert Fitzgerald.

Murray’s home is currently being transformed into The Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice.   

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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