An important, groundbreaking book - two decades in work - that tells the story of the unlikely but history-changing 28-year bond forged between Pauli Murray (granddaughter of a mulatto slave who, against all odds, as a lesbian black woman, became a lawyer, civil rights pioneer, Episcopal priest, poet, and activist) and Eleanor Roosevelt (first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1948 and human rights internationalist) that critically shaped Eleanor Roosevelt's, and therefore FDR's, view of race and racism in America.
It was a decades-long friendship - tender, moving, prodding, inspiring - sustained primarily through correspondence and characterized by brutal honesty, mutual admiration, and respect, revealing the generational and political differences each had to overcome in order to support one another's life. Of the two extraordinary women, one was at the center of world power, the other an outsider ostracized for the color of her skin, fighting with heart, soul, and intellect to push the world forward (she did!) and to become the figure for change she knew she was meant to be. The two were alike in many ways: losing both parents as children, being reared by elderly kin; each was a devoted Episcopalian with an abiding compassion for the helpless; each was possessed of boundless energy and fortitude yet susceptible to low spirits and anxiety; each was in a battle against shyness, learning to be outspoken; each was at her best when engaged in meaningful, important work. And each in her own society was sidelined as a woman and determined to upend the centuries-old social constriction....
A riveting portrait that shows how their friendship deepened and endured in the face of enormous social barriers and that makes clear how Pauli Murray, foremother of the modern-day black and feminist movements, crucially influenced Eleanor Roosevelt's progressive stance on civil and human rights, challenging her to take a stand for justice and freedom ("If some of our statements are bitter these days," Pauli Murray wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt in a postscript from a 1942 letter, "you must remember that truth is our only sword"). This is a book that reveals as well the profound impact of Eleanor Roosevelt's friendship on the shape of Murray's life as an activist, a lawyer, cofounder of the National Organization for Women, the principal strategist in the fight to preserve Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.
©2016 Patricia Bell-Scott (P)2016 Recorded Books
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I try to read everything I can find about Eleanor Roosevelt. This book surprised me with new information about Eleanor Roosevelt. I am always amazed at the energy and wide interest of ER. I had not heard of Pauli Murray before reading this book. This turns out to be my second book on black history for the February Black History Month.
ER first met Pauli Murray in 1943 when Murray was living at Camp Tera, a New Deal Facility in New York for unemployed women. Eleanor had pressured them to accept black women into the Camps. Pauli and ER carried on a lifetime correspondence from this date onward.
Murray a young African America woman first worked with the NAACP then went on to become an attorney; she became the first African America women Episcopal Priest and was a prominent writer and poet. Murray challenged racial segregation at the University of North Carolina in 1938, and in public transportation in Virginia in 1940. She was a co-founder of the national organization of Women in 1966. She co-authored a brief with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Reed v Reed.
Bell-Scott tells of the friendship between these two women. The author includes many letters between the two women. The book is meticulously researched and the author had interviews with Murray. The book is easy to read and at times reads like a novel. I gathered from the book that ER’s role was supportive encouragement but at times she did take some action on behalf of Murray. I was amazed at the courage and intelligence of Pauli Murray and would like to learn more about her. I picked up a good trivia question about ER from this book. The question is: Who was Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorite poet? Karen Chilton does a good job narrating the book.
The audio version of the book is so interesting. The author uses primary sources (letters, journal entries) to weave a narrative of the fight for equality. Both gender and race inequities were presented to give the reader a basis of the progress made. Although much still needs to be done in the area of equality, I found the early efforts by PM and ER laudable. I recommend the audio version of this book; reading the correspondence would have become tedious. Karen Chilton's reading is excellent as she distinguishes between the two characters who helped shape our modern society.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the draw for me to this book, however I've found a new American hero in Paulie Murray. I had never heard of Murray previously, but I'm stunned by her part in history. It is truly a remarkable story not to be missed.
Much to my dismay I had never heard of Pauli Murray. What a loss to my life education. She is an amazing woman, a symbol of strength and fortitude against all odds, someone everyone should know about and admire.
Report Inappropriate Content