New documentary shines light on the remarkable Pauli Murray – Lowell Sun


A remarkable documentary, from the filmmakers who made “RBG,” lands on Amazon Prime this Friday. “My Name is Pauli Murray,” directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, is a long overdue recognition of one of the most progressive and influential thinkers of the 20th century, legal scholar Pauli Murray.

While making “RBG,” the documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG herself mentioned the name Pauli Murray to West and Cohen, citing them as an influence, and soon, the filmmakers were inspired to make Murray a household name.

Pauli Murray was a brilliant mind, a dedicated scholar, and a gleeful rabble-rouser in the fight for civil rights.

Murray endured all of the injustices doled out to Black women in the South, including being jailed for sitting in the white part of the bus, years before Rosa Parks. These experiences inspired Murray to write letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, befriending first lady Eleanor Roosevelt along the way, and pursue a legal career that in part inspired the arguments used in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and later, some of of Ginsburg’s arguments for gender equality. As a queer Black woman who struggled with gender identity, Murray’s life experience shaped their progressive thinking about the social constructs of race and gender, and in turn, tore down those legal precedents that upheld inequality.

It’s a fascinating documentary that will certainly inspire audiences to want to learn more about Murray, but it may also spark a curiosity to learn about the people and organizations that Murray influenced as well. Of course, there’s no better place to start than with West and Cohen’s Oscar-nominated “RBG,” which looks at the life and influence of Ginsburg, which is streaming on Hulu, Kanopy and available for a $0.99 rental on Amazon and iTunes. For something more in the narrative realm, the 2018 biopic “On The Basis of Sex” stars Felicity Huffman as Ginsburg in one of her landmark legal victories. That’s available for a $3.99 rental on all digital platforms.

Murray was integral to the formation of NOW, the National Organization for Women, so if you’d like to learn more about the women’s movement, check out the documentaries “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” (free on Tubi or Kanopy, $1.99 digital rental), or “Feminists: What Were They Thinking?” (streaming on Netflix). Julie Taymor also made a fascinating biopic about feminist icon Gloria Steinem last year. “The Glorias” stars Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore and is streaming on Amazon Prime.

For films about the civil rights movement, including Thurgood Marshall, who argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court and later became a Supreme Court justice himself, watch the documentary “Mr. Civil Rights,” which is available to rent for $3.99 on YouTube, or check out the biopic “Marshall,” which follows his career as a young civil rights lawyer prior to his entry on the national stage.

The late Chadwick Bozeman stars as Marshall in the film, which is streaming on Netflix. Also check out the documentary “Good Trouble,” about the wonderful, late civil rights activist and politician John Lewis, directed by Dawn Porter, which was released in 2020. It’s streaming on HBO Max or available for a $2.99 digital rental elsewhere.

Hopefully Murray’s story inspires viewers to learn more about heroes of the civil rights and women’s movement in the 20th century, both sung and unsung.

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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