Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray was a historian, advocate, poet, law professor and co-founder of the National Organization for Women. Dr. Murray coined the term “Jane Crow,” the sister of Jim Crow, to refer to gender discrimination from faculty and fellow students at the Howard University School of Law, where she graduated at the top of her class as valedictorian in 1944. Her senior thesis, entitled “Should the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy Be Overruled?” was used as an inspiring framework for Thurgood Marshall and Spottswood Robinson to concoct a strategy to argue the Brown v. Board case, and did so effectively without citing Murray’s work at all.
“Murray’s open lesbian relationships and her gender nonconforming identity disrupted the dictates of respectability, making it easier to erase her five decades of important intellectual and political contributions from our broader narrative of civil rights,” as said in a reflection piece by Professor Brittney Cooper, Women and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers.
The black female LBGT identity has often been mistaken as a confused, temporary or limited state of being. The presence of the identity itself, and the unapologetic performance of it, historically creates enough basis for the contributions of one woman to a wide movement to be disregarded.
But shall we cease?
Of course not.
A voice that is often erased;
Yet a voice that cannot be replaced.
We come in peace,
And we come in grace,
But we will come, indeed,
to reclaim our space.