Durham 150: Activist Pauli Murray's family home in Durham to be restored

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- An old house on Carroll Street in Durham's West End community holds a lot history, mainly because it was the childhood home of activist Pauli Murray.

"She was really a Southerner. Although she was born in Baltimore, she came here to live with her grandparents after her mother passed away and they shaped her, and that's why this place is important," said Barbara Lau, executive director of the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice.

Born Anna Pauline Murray in 1910, Pauli Murray became one of the most import legal theorists and social justice activists of the 20th century. Her life intersected all major human and civil rights issues of our time including women's rights and LGBTQ rights. Now, 34 years after her death, her home is being restored.



Frachele Scott, managing director for the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, along with Lau, is working to capture the essence of who Murray was by bringing her sanctuary back to life, beginning with the parlor.

"To know that in this space there was joyous moments. There was music. There was the sound of a piano being played and people singing around the piano this was the hub of the home," Scott said.

Once the renovation is complete, visitors can come and learn about who Murray was and her contributions to society.

"It was in this place that those values about democracy and equality and responsibility to fight for justice -- that's where these values were nurtured. That's where she was nurtured as a very bright child and as a person who was encouraged to be herself at all times," Lau said.

Murray, a lawyer who became the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest had a known partner, but was never openly gay. She used her legal knowledge and connections to people such as Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to encourage inclusiveness and change. Her cousin Stephanie Yarborough-Davis is grateful that her relative's legacy is being kept alive.

"I think the neighborhood is so proud. I've heard people talk about it and talk about this house and who they knew," Yarborough said.

Soon everyone who wants to know more about Murray will have an opportunity to walk the grounds that she called home and be inspired by the idea that one person with the courage to fight for what's right can make a difference. Not just in their community, but across the world.

Organizers hope to have a grand opening for the new Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice in the spring of 2021. The rehabilitation project is funded by a grant from the National Park Service. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016 by the National Park Service and a National Treasure in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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