American Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Activist Pauli Murray Teaches at Brandeis 1968-1973

Pauli Murray at Brandeis

Arriving at Brandeis in the fall of 1968, Pauli Murray introduced the first courses at the university in Legal Studies, African-American Studies, and Women’s Studies. Murray was given the Louis Stulberg Chair in Law and Politics in 1971, receiving tenure as Full Professor in American Studies. The courses she regularly taught included “American Legal Systems,”  “Law and Social Change,”  “Civil Rights and Black Power,” and “Women in American Society.”

Murray’s innovative women’s studies course drew upon materials from “anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, lawyers, theologians, writers in the field of fiction and criticism”; themes included women’s legal rights, employment, education, the professions, religion, politics, home and community.  Incorporating  a comparative and international focus, the course  examined “the relation of the women’s movement to the liberation of men.” All of this was quite novel and  impressive in 1968.

Murray was  the chief architect of the battle to improve women’s status at all levels on campus. Largely due to her persistence, the Dean appointed a Committee on the Status of Women. Murray and the small group of women colleagues who joined her in confronting problems of sexism at the university laid the seeds for Brandeis’ Women’s Studies Program and for the creation of an affirmative action office.

Murray  left Brandeis in 1973 to enter the Episcopal Seminary. In her memoirs, she described her five years at Brandeis as “the most exciting, tormenting, satisfying, embattled, frustrated, and at times triumphant period of my secular career.”


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