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An Activist on Three Fronts

 

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray
by Rosalind Rosenberg
Oxford. 512 pages, $29.95

 

 

PAULI MURRAY was a civil rights activist in mid-century America, a lawyer who fought Jim Crow laws, among other injustices, and the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. In Jane Crow, Rosalind Rosenberg delineates Murray’s education, career, and personal life in the context of American history. We see Murray as a young woman struggling against Jim Crow laws in the South, becoming a member of the Communist Party Opposition, and working for the Negro People’s Committee to Aid Spanish Refugees (NPC). While picketing in Rhode Island in 1940, she was arrested by the police and taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric treatment. A month later, she was arrested for creating a disturbance on a Greyhound bus in Virginia and served a short jail term. Her efforts to stay the execution of Odell Waller, a black sharecropper who’d shot his employer for refusing to give Waller his share of their wheat crop, while unsuccessful, earned her an invitation to the White House for tea with Eleanor Roosevelt.

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