National Trust for Historic Preservation Names Childhood Home of Social Activist Pauli Murray, a National Treasure
As America celebrates the remarkable achievements of women during Women’s History Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the childhood home of Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, in Durham, N.C., its newest National Treasure. A leader in the American civil and women’s rights movements, Murray was also co-founder of the National Organization for Women, and the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. The Trust named the Murray house a national treasure to ensure her rich legacy is upheld and to assist in its preservation so the site can operate as a center for social justice programming.
The residence was built in 1898 by her grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald, in the West End neighborhood. Today, it stands threatened by deferred maintenance and increased deterioration. As part of the National Treasures portfolio, the Murray house will benefit from the Trust’s considerable experience with historic sites throughout the country to lead a restoration plan that will stabilize the home and prepare it for reuse. Partnering on the campaign is the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS), who will assist with interpretation of the home.
“Pauli Murray was an unheralded pioneer whose work challenged societal norms and laid a foundation for some of the greatest human rights movements in our nation’s history,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are committed not only to preserving the home, but also, to calling attention to the remarkable contributions of Pauli Murray. Protecting this site will make certain her legacy is never forgotten.”
Descendant of both slaves and slave owners, Murray credited her childhood home as the place where her values were first instilled. In her memoir, Proud Shoes: the Story of An American Family, she noted that the house was “a monument to my Grandfather’s courage and tenacity.” Murray’s accomplishments as a human rights activist and attorney were numerous. In 1954, Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP referenced her writings for the Brown v. Board of Education trial, calling her work “the Bible for civil rights lawyers.” She also became a close consultant to Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, and maintained a lifelong friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt.
Following the completion of the restoration work, the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, a nonprofit organization based in Durham, will reopen the home to allow for educational programming on pressing issues of our time.
“Pauli Murray was decades ahead of her time and yet largely unrecognized, in part because of her political associations and her lifetime of committed relationships with other women,” said Barbara Lau, director of the Pauli Murray Project and board member of the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice. “Our goal is to open the doors of the home again to learning and thoughtful discussion that advances Pauli’s vision and positively impacts the community. We want to nurture the next generation of Pauli Murrays.”
To learn more about the Pauli Murray House, check out the blog, “Childhood Home of Civil Pioneer Now a National Treasure.” To donate to the Pauli Murray House restoration, visit www.savingplaces.org.
About the National Treasures Program
National Treasures are a portfolio of highly-significant historic places throughout the country where the National Trust makes a long-term commitment to find a preservation solution. As the presenting partner of the National Treasures program, American Express has pledged $6 million to help promote and enable the preservation of these cultural and historic places. For more information, visit www.savingplaces.org.
About the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice
The Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice (PMCHSJ) lifts up the life and legacy of activist, scholar, feminist, poet, attorney and priest Pauli Murray by developing the Pauli Murray/Robert Fitzgerald house as an historic educational site. The PMCHJ actively works, through its programming and operations, to increase engagement across divisions such as race, class, sexual & gender identity, and spiritual practice to address enduring inequities and injustice in our local, national and global communities. www.paulimurraycenter.org