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Pauli Murray Award

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The 28th Annual Pauli Murray Awards

The 28th Annual Pauli Murray Awards will be held on Sunday, February 25, 2018 3pm-5pm at Whitted Building, Rm 250, 300 W. Tryon St., Hillsborough, NC. 

Established in 1990, the Pauli Murray Award commemorates the life of the late Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray (1910-1985), a distinguished and remarkable person who confronted discrimination, racism, and sexism in her own life.  

The Pauli Murray Award is presented annually by the Orange County Human Relations Commission to an Orange County youth, an Orange County adult, and an Orange County business that have served the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents.  


To  nominate an Orange County youth, adult, or business for the Pauli Murray Award, follow the link here.  Nominations are due by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 12, 2018.  Individual and Youth nominees must reside in Orange County.  Business nominees must operate or conduct business within Orange County.  Additional criteria are as follows: 

Individual Nominees (over 18) Must: 

  • Have a record of promoting human rights, diversity and/or equality in the Orange County community.  This may include, but not be limited to, providing leadership in diffusing racial or other community tensions, promoting diversity and/or equality in community activities and events, or advocating for members of a protected class; and 
  • Have a history of involvement in the area of human relations in Orange County.

 Youth Nominees Must: 

  • Be a full-time student in grades 6-12 or a college student 18 years old or younger; 
  • Demonstrate a concern for the rights of all people through acts that may include, but not be limited to, encouraging cultural understanding, or promoting human rights, diversity or equality in a school or community setting; and 
  • Exhibit leadership, citizenship and a positive attitude.

 Business Nominees Must: 

  • Encourage diversity in the workforce and provide leadership and direction for the upward mobility for all employees; 
  • Provide self-improvement opportunities for employees through such options as educational assistance, in-house training or employee assistance programs; and 
  • Promote and participate in activities and programs related to human relations affairs.

Student Contest

The Orange County Human Relations Commission (HRC) offers students (grades 6-12) in Orange County an opportunity to get involved in Human Relations Month, recognized annually in February.  Students are asked to produce a project in the platform of their choosing that explores a topic of equality and social justice. The HRC defines social justice as efforts that actively seek to eliminate oppression and create equal opportunity; where individuals may sufficiently provide for their physical and mental needs and the needs of their dependents; where individuals live in physically and mentally safe communities; where the environment and economy are sustainable and where all are able to participate civically.

2017-2018 Topic

“The Life of Mr. Frederick Douglass – The Power of Words” 
Using a selected platform (e.g., Art/Dance/Spoken Word Video or Essay), express why you believe learning to read and write can make the difference in your life or as a responsible citizen in the United States of America. Use personal examples from your own life or a person that has influenced you in school or home. All entries must be submitted in English.


The HRC will award the winning individuals for the categories of Middle School entries and High School entries: 

  • First Prize: $100
  • Second Prize: $50
  • Third Prize: $25

For more information or to enter the contest, follow the link here.

Pauli Murray - Copy (2)
"As a historian, attorney, poet, activist, teacher and Episcopal priest, she worked throughout her life to address injustice, to give voice to the unheard, to educate, and to promote reconciliation between races and economic classes."

- The Pauli Murray Project

Duke Human Rights Center

The Life of Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray was the granddaughter of a slave and the great-granddaughter of a slave owner.  Born in Baltimore and orphaned at an early age, Pauli Murray was raised on Cameron Street behind Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina, by her maternal grandparents and an aunt, in whose first-grade class she learned to read.  Two other aunts also took a keen interest in her upbringing.  “Having no parents of my own,” she wrote in her poignant memoir Proud Shoes,“I had in effect three mothers, each trying to impress upon me those traits of character expected of a Fitzgerald—stern devotion to duty, capacity for hard work, industry and thrift, and above all honor and courage in all things.”

She graduated at the top of her class from Hillside High School, and with honors from Hunter College in New York, but was denied admission to the University of North Carolina in 1938 because of her race, and to Harvard University because of her gender.  These and other experiences spurred her to a life of activism, working to dismantle barriers of race and gender.  From sit-ins to integrate Washington, D.C. lunch counters in the 1940s, through her efforts as a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the early 1970s, Murray took challenges head-on, while generally avoiding the limelight.

After receiving her law degree at Howard University, she later earned a master's degree in law from the University of California at Berkeley, and was a tutor in law at Yale, where she received her doctorate in 1965.  Pauli Murray had a distinguished and varied career as a civil rights lawyer, a professor, a college vice president, and deputy attorney general of California.  She was named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle in 1947.  Beneath her drive, her will, her achievements, lay “the elusiveness of her self-esteem,” and the fact that she was “not entirely free from the prevalent idea that I must prove myself.”  The idea of writing a family memoir began to grow in her shortly after college, “but the struggle to educate myself and to earn a living during the Depression, and then my law studies and practice, kept me from writing for many years.”  Encouraged by her literary association with the poet Stephen Vincent Benet, she interrupted her law practice to spend four years researching and writing Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family, which was published in 1956.

At age sixty-two, when many people are planning retirement, Pauli Murray entered seminary and embarked upon a new career.  In 1977, she was the first black woman in the U.S. to become an Episcopalian priest.  In performing her first Holy Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, where her grandmother, a slave, had been baptized, Murray finally believed that “All the strands of my life had come together.”

-North Carolina Writers’ Network