Amazon Studios brought a pre-screening of their latest documentary, “My Name is Pauli Murray,” to Howard University on Sept. 29.
The screening was held at Cramton Auditorium and followed the life of Rev. Dr. Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, the first woman to graduate from the Howard University School of Law, the first Black person to receive a J.S.D. from Yale Law School and the first Black female Episcopal priest.
The documentary explored Murray’s ability to voice their concerns for inequities in the world, even when no one wanted to listen. It proved that their mocked paper on Plessy v. Ferguson being unconstitutional was instrumental for the legal team working on the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case.
Murray documented many parts of their life in photos and memoirs that are currently stored at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard per their will. In addition to this, their childhood house was considered a National Historic Landmark in 2016.
According to the documentary, Murray graduated top of their class at Howard, and later became the school’s advisor for their chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The film also showed how Murray worked to desegregate U Street in Washington, D.C.
Khloe Kelley, a freshman biology major and psychology and chemistry double minor, expressed pride in being a part of Pauli Murray’s Howard legacy.
“As a Black woman at Howard today, you have to recognize your predecessors that paved the way,” Kelley said.
The film featured Murray’s role in the LGBTQ+ rights movements, their non-traditional gender identity and personal romantic partnerships. In the documentary, it was said that their Aunt Pauline referred to them as her “boy-girl” due to their gender ambiguity. The film showed how Murray didn’t feel as if they were a woman and went to great lengths—one being having exploratory surgery—to see if there was a physical explanation to their identity.
Murray was also in a relationship with a woman named Peggy, which was unconventional for their time. The relationship ended due to Peggy not being able to see Murray as a man in the way that they wanted her to.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community at Howard, such as sophomore electronic studio major Bryten Gant, expressed their relatability to Murray.
“I saw myself in Pauli, and I loved the part when they went into detail about their romantic letters with their partner,” Gant said.
Brooklynn Blackwell, a freshman civil engineering major, expressed how impactful the documentary was.
“Even though there are boundaries that are put up systematically, they really don’t matter as long as you believe in you,” Blackwell said.
Following the screening of the documentary, Chadwick A. Boseman College of Arts Dean Phylicia Rashad moderated a panel discussion with directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, editor Sinque Norris, producer Talleah Bridges McMahon and Professor Lisa Crooms Robinson of Howard School of Law.
Once the panel commenced, the event emcee announced that Amazon Studios commissioned Kendall Robinson, a senior painting major, to create a painting in Murray’s honor.
“I’m just incredibly honored to depict someone who made such an impact on the world,” Robinson said.
The piece was donated to the Pauli Murray Foundation.
To end the night, free bouquets of flowers and burlap tote bags were handed out to participants upon exiting Cramton Auditorium. The Pauli Murray quote on the bag says: “the lesson of history is that all human rights are indivisible,” the parting message of an inspiring event.
The documentary was officially released on Amazon Prime on Oct. 1.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith