“Under the Laws of North Carolina and under the resolutions of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina, members of your race are not admitted to the University.”
Pauli Murray was a brilliant civil rights lawyer born in 1910 and raised in Durham. She collected various degrees from Hunter College, Howard University, Yale University and University of California, Berkley, but her first choice for graduate school was UNC. She wanted to either study law or the social sciences here.
When she applied in 1938, she received a letter telling her people like her — black people — were not accepted. The NAACP supported her application but was unwilling to sue on her behalf because of concerns about the legal standing of her state residency.
In the end, a great North Carolinian became a preeminent international scholar in law, a resilient fighter for the rights of women and racial minorities, but not a graduate of UNC.
The law school that Pauli Murray couldn’t attend because of her race now houses the UNC Center for Civil Rights. The work of the Center is in some ways to fill the gap that left Murray without representation. It takes up cases across the state where civil rights have been violated and represents litigants against the violators.