In light of the events of recent days and considering the living history of the University, I’d like to encourage the whole UNC community to read Pauli Murray’s memoir "Song in a Weary Throat."
Murray, an African-American woman who was raised in Durham had ancestors who were prominent planters in Orange County. One of her white ancestors was a UNC trustee.
She applied for admission to the UNC graduate school in 1938, hoping to study public welfare and sociology. I graduated from the successor program to the one she hoped to attend — the School of Social Work — in 1993. Her application became a test case. At the time, it was against the law for UNC to admit African Americans.
Some students were outraged by her application, and there were letters both for and against her admission in the DTH and the local press. One student threatened to tar and feather any Black person who tried to join her in class.
Murray appealed directly to Frank Porter Graham for a positive response to her request. He responded that the decision was up to the North Carolina General Assembly. Murray’s aunt in Durham discouraged her attempts to gain admission to UNC. She was worried that the attention brought to the family by the case would cause her to lose her job as a public school teacher in Durham and the pension that she hoped to receive.