Dr. Pauli Murray known for national civil rights work featured on U.S. quarter with hope quote

Tom George Image
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Durham native, civil rights icon featured on U.S. quarter
Durham native, civil rights icon featured on U.S. quarter

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- As we celebrate Women's History Month, you might want to keep an eye out for your spare change next time you're out shopping.

A Civil rights icon with roots in Durham now has her face on the new U.S. quarter coin.

The Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray was a pioneering legal mind, and trailblazer for Black women and the LGBT community. For years, they've been working to preserve her childhood home and share her story.

Now it's getting a national boost, with coins in circulation across the country.

"She created space where there was none, and Pauli saw the deficits in society, she saw that there was not space for Black people to live liberated lives, there was not quite space for women to live full lives," says Pauli Murray Center executive Angela Mason.

The center in West Durham is working to keep not just her childhood home and legacy alive - From graduating as the only woman in her law class at Howard University, she became a pioneering legal mind, her work shaping the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray honored on US Quarter

Her work spanned decades influencing everyone from Thurgood Marshall to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, co-founding the National Organization for Women, and later becoming the first Black woman to become an ordained Episcopal priest before she passed away in 1985.

Rosita Stevens-Holsey is Pauli's oldest living niece, able to witness her aunt's biggest honor yet. The U.S. Mint announcing Pauli was chosen from only a handful of women to be featured on the quarter.

"It was amazing. It was truly like an out-of-body experience," Rosita says.

Seeing her Aunt Pauli's face with her signature glasses, along with one of her famous quotes - "Hope, A Song In a Weary Throat."

"She was a wordsmith, and she really was a caring person, she always wanted to help people she always wanted to undo injustices," Rosita says.

Something that rubbed off on her niece. Rosita still remembers getting a job offer from IBM decades ago, and just like her aunt, she was not afraid to stand up for what she was worth.

"And I actually boosted up the offer by 5,000, I didn't mention Aunt Pauli's name and they probably wouldn't know who she was," Rosita says.

But they will now - from the center in Durham to the new Murray-Massinburg Elementary School bearing her name, and now the quarter.

A permanent reminder, that whether you're George Washington or Pauli Murray, there's space for everyone.

"If you flip over that quarter, you might have folks who have different ideas about the person on the back of that quarter but Pauli certainly represents what the fullness of our society can and should be," Mason says.

Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray honored on US Quarter

The quarter is in circulation right now. In the meantime, the Pauli Murray Center is still under renovation, and they're hoping to have to open with exhibits for the public by this fall. You can also find Rosita's social media pages under "Preserving Pauli Murray" where she shares her aunt's stories.

Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray Center in Durham, NC

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