An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Murray, Pauli

(Nov. 20, 1910-July 1, 1985). First African American woman priest. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Durham, North Carolina. Murray graduated from Hunter College in 1933, and from Howard University Law School in 1944. Her senior thesis at Howard challenged the separate-but-equal principle behind segregation. It was used by lawyers in the 1954 U. S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. She also earned a master’s degree at the University of California School of Law in 1945. After teaching at the University of Ghana Law School in West Africa, she returned to the United States where she earned a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from the Yale Law School in 1965. Murray joined the faculty of Brandeis University in 1968. She resigned to matriculate at the General Theological Seminary in 1973, where she earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1976. She was ordained deacon on June 9, 1976. On Jan. 8, 1977, Murray was ordained the first African American woman priest. The story of her struggles against racial and gender injustice are described in Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family (1956) and Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (1987). The latter was reprinted as Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet (1989). Murray died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.