Ninety-two years ago this fall, a determined young African-American woman named Pauline Murray enrolled at Hunter College, then a tuition-free all-women’s school. She had graduated with honors from Richmond Hill High School in Queens, but there was far more to her unique past — not to mention her extraordinary future.
Destined, as Pauli Murray, to break new ground as an activist-theorist for civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQI rights, she has been too long relegated to the margins of American history — though she is at last entering the forefront thanks to the new Amazon documentary, “My Name is Pauli Murray,” directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West.
Born in poverty in Baltimore, raised by her mother’s family in North Carolina, Pauline moved to New York City on her own at age 16 to pursue her education. Originally, she aspired to attend Columbia, then learned it did not admit women. Its sister school, Barnard, was too expensive. Hunter, as former Daily News writer Karen Hunter has noted, “held no admission bias on race, gender or economic status.” Moreover, it was located “in the New York” of Pauline’s “dreams.”