Tomorrow night– Thursday, Nov. 9– the Pauli Murray Project’s exhibit “Finding Jane Crow in Pauli Murray’s Contacts” opens at Duke University! If you’re in the area, I sure hope you get the chance to see it! It’s free and open to the public.
Curated by my daughter Vera Cecelski, the exhibit explores the life and times of one of the most extraordinary human rights activists in 20th-century America.
Raised largely by her grandparents, Pauli Murray grew up in Durham in the 1910s and ‘20s. She was a civil rights lawyer and activist, a women’s rights activist and an LGBTQ pioneer.
She was also the first black woman ordained an Episcopal priest, and she was the author of a still widely-read memoir called Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family.
You can find Vera’s exhibit at Smith Warehouse, Bay 5, at 114 S. Buchanan Blvd. in Durham. The exhibit opening tomorrow is part of the Pauli Murray Project’s special celebration of Murray’s birthday.
Working with Barbara Lau, the Pauli Murray Center’s director, Vera first curated the exhibit for a special one-day-only event last spring.
That was at the old house at 906 Carroll Street in Durham where Pauli Murray grew up. On April 1st the Pauli Murray Center celebrated the house being recognized as a National Historic Site.
After renovations, the site will open as the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice. (Learn how to contribute here!) The center’s mission is to honor Murray’s legacy and to lay the seeds for a new generation of social activists.
The genius of Vera’s exhibit is that she took a single artifact—Pauli Murray’s address book—and used it as a door into a whole age of struggle for social justice in America. She does so by telling the stories of Murray’s friends and collaborators (and showing how they are linked), ranging from civil rights icons such as Rosa Parks to her endearingly break-all-the-rules hairdresser.
I hope we’ll see you there. The exhibit opens at 6 PM, the talks start at 7 PM. If you can’t make it tomorrow night, the exhibit will be open daily for several more weeks.