On Monday, August 17, the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice and Iron Mountain Inc., the data storage and management company, announced a new partnership that will work to establish the Pauli Murray House, a National Treasure of the National Trust, as a national historic site.
The partnership includes a generous contribution from Iron Mountain that will help preserve the house's foundation and fund brick-and-mortar restoration work. Once work is completed, the Pauli Murray Center will use the space to honor Pauli Murray's legacy and create social justice programming for students and the community.
"We're pleased to support the Pauli Murray Center in their mission to tell Pauli's story," said Ty Ondatje, Iron Mountain's senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Diversity Officer. "Our Living Legacy Initiative is our commitment to help preserve cultural and historical information, artifacts and treasures with nonprofit organizations."
As an African-American member of the LGBT community, women's rights activist, and the lawyer responsible for much of the legal theory used in several landmark civil rights cases, Pauli Murray was one of the most important women of the 20th century.
Murray was also a writer, the first female African-American Episcopal priest, and an Episcopal saint. As an adult, she was a professional nomad in search of education and employment, but her formative years were spent with her grandparents and aunt in this Durham, North Carolina house.
As a mixed-race woman growing up in the segregated South, she encountered injustice and learned from her family how to combat it.
"The ideals and influences within my own family had made me a life-long fighter against all forms of inequality and injustice," she wrote in her most famous book, Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family.
Murray worked tirelessly in the struggle to achieve equal rights for African-Americans and for women. She sat down on buses and sat in at lunch counters in the 1940s. She penned the memorandum sent to the U.S. Congress advocating for women's rights in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Murray's family valued education. She earned law degrees from Howard, Yale, and the University of California. In 1951, she wrote The States' Law on Race and Color, which Thurgood Marshall called the Bible for civil rights lawyers. She was an advisor and friend to Eleanor Roosevelt and was appointed by John F. Kennedy to his President's Commission on the Status of Women Committee on Civil and Political Rights in 1961.
At age 62, Pauli Murray entered seminary seeking ordination. In 1977 she became the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. She offered communion for the first time at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 123 years after her grandmother had been baptized there as a slave.
Murray was also co-founder of the National Organization for Women and helped write the organization's mission statement. The organization was created to mobilize women, give women's rights advocates the power to put pressure on employers and the government, and to promote full equality of the sexes.
A ceremony celebrating the partnership between the Pauli Murray Center and Iron Mountain is planned for Friday, August 21, 2015 at 6 p.m. at the opening of an exhibition, Pauli Murray: Imp, Crusader, Dude, Priest in the Cameron Gallery at The Scrap Exchange in Durham, North Carolina.
"We're honored not only to play a part in helping the Center preserve her childhood home, but also help educate future generations about Pauli Murray's historical contributions and many milestones," Ondatje said.