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Tuesday July 5th

Civil rights activist Pauli Murray's home is named national landmark in Durham

<p>LGBT activist&nbsp;Pauli Murray's childhood home&nbsp;in Durham&nbsp;was named a National Historic Landmark.</p>
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LGBT activist Pauli Murray's childhood home in Durham was named a National Historic Landmark.

On Jan. 11 civil rights activist Pauli Murray's Durham home was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of the few — less than 3 percent in 2011 — to recognize women, people of color or members of the LGBTQ community.

A day later, the home received a federal grant of $237,575 to restore the interior of the property.

Murray, the first female African-American Episcopal priest, was a founder of the National Organization for Women and a key figure in the inclusion of the ban on workplace discrimination based on sex in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“She served as a bridge figure between social movements through her advocacy for both women’s and civil rights,” the Department of Interior said in a statement about the designation.

The federal fund awarded to the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice is part of a larger effort to preserve stories about the struggle for racial equity in the 20th century, made possible by the African-American Civil Rights Grant Program.

Megan Brown, a grants coordinator for the National Park Service, said the panel reviewed over 150 applications nationwide for the grant program.

“(Murray) seems like an amazing figure (for) all kinds of civil rights,” she said. “When the panel was going over the application, everyone was truly amazed at everything she accomplished in her life.”

The landmark restoration and designation will help shed light on an important figure that otherwise has received little historical recognition, said Andrew Reynolds, a UNC political science professor.

“If she had been white and male and straight, we would all know about her and would be learning about her in school,” he said. “But because she was black and female and queer, we don’t know much about her at all.”

Reynolds said Murray’s work is particularly significant because she was part of multiple social movements at a time when civil rights activism was largely a male-dominated effort.

“She was marginalized from leadership roles within the civil rights movement because of her queer identity and gender,” he said. “Male civil rights leaders saw her, perhaps, as baggage.”

James Leloudis, UNC professor of history, said Murray’s legacy as an advocate for LGBTQ rights isn’t one she would have advertised during her lifetime.

“In her own time, her connection to LGBT rights was still a very difficult one and not one that had been fully formed in our culture,” he said.

Leloudis said the celebration of Murray's life shows a social and political progression. 

“What’s interesting is that in this moment of time, her sexual identity was included in the case for making her home a national landmark,” Leloudis said. “It would have been obscured 25 or 30 years ago.”

Barbara Lau, director of the Pauli Murray Project at the Duke Human Rights Center, said in a statement the project aims to connect history to modern issues of social justice.

“We want to positively impact the community and nurture the next generation of Pauli Murrays.”

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