Very Good / Very Good. Item #5472
[Cincinnati]: Women’s Division of Christian Service, 1951. Quarto; 746pp plus fold-out charts. Ownership inscription of Pulitzer-Prize winning Historian David Herbert Donald on front free endpaper.
Murray’s first book, States' Law on Race and Color became, in the words of Thurgood Marshall, "The Bible for Civil Rights lawyers," as it exposed the absurdity and extent of segregation laws. A few years later, Marshall’s team would use ideas Murray developed in a law school paper, specifically that segregation was a moral violation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, to successfully overturn the Plessy precedent in Brown v. Board of Education.
Murray’s first book may have had the greatest social impact, but in a review of her posthumously- published memoir Song in a Weary Throat, critic John Yardley writes that “One comes to its powerfully moving final pages utterly convinced that Murray was one of the great Americans of her time.” Murray co-founded the National Organization of Women (NOW), was a top-of-class graduate at the Howard University School of Law (where she coined the term “Jane Doe” to refer to sex descrimination), the first African American to earn a doctorate of jurisprudence at Yale, and the first African-American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest (she was canonized a saint in the religion in 2018). She organized sit-ins at Washington restaurants twenty years before the Greensboro sit-ins popularized the tactic, and was arrested for not sitting at the back of a segregated bus fifteen years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Montgomery. In 1971 then-ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg named her as a coauthor, along with Dorothy Kenyon, in Sally Reed’s brief in the Reed v. Reed Equal Protection case, acknowledging the role Murray’s work had in paving the way for equality.
While her work focused mainly on sex and racial discrimination, Murray has also been influential as a queer rights pioneer. Her relationships with women were not a secret from her friends and colleagues, but as a target during the Red Scare she did omit references to romantic same-sex relationships from her memoir Song in a Weary Throat. A later biographer suggests today “she very probably would have embraced transgender identity, and might have identified as a trans man” (Brittney Cooper in Salon, Feb 18, 2015).
Unclipped dust jacket is heavily chipped and lightly faded at spine. Green boards with spine stamped in gilt. Corners are bumped and spine ends nudged. Binding is sound.