The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice

The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott

Book: The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Patricia Bell-Scott
Tags: United States, History, Biography & Autobiography, 20th Century, Political, Lgbt
the prospect that ER did not understand how humiliating the situation was. Murray “stewed over it for a week” and then shot off a response.
I was disappointed when I read…that you crossed a picket line against your deeper feelings.…
The continual day-to-day embarrassment of a group is a greater hardship than the momentary embarrassment of the individuals who attended the Keith Theatre performance of Abe Lincoln in Illinois.…
Your article, even though it reflected some indecision, was a most effective result of that demonstration. Sympathetic editorial writers have done yeoman service in building public sentiment for the rights of labor. The rights of minority groups are equally important.
There can be no compromise on the principle of equality.

    “When People Overwork Themselves,…They Must Pay for It”
    P auli Murray launchedNational Sharecroppers Week at the close of February 1940.In Washington, D.C., plans called for a mass meeting, a number of teas, and a dinner at theNational Press Club.InNew York City, the week opened with more than a hundred events at labor halls, churches, and civic organizations, as well as a theater benefit with performances by fifty celebrities and a dinner forum at theHotel Commodore.More than 550 supporters came to the March 4 banquet, and $4,052 was raised. By all accounts, NSW was on the road to success. Unfortunately, the young dynamo responsible for the project was unable to witness the fruits of her labor.
    The week before the dinner forum, Murray had been admitted to the psychiatric unit atBellevueHospital, where she remained for a few days before transferring to a private facility and the care of Dr.Helen Rogers. From there, Murray read with interest the New York Times story about the banquet. She was gratified byFranklin Roosevelt’s telegram to the organizers andJohn Steinbeck’s tribute to the “migrant Okies and Arkies in California” that was recited by actorRuth Gordon.
    Murray was especially delighted with the first lady, who told the audience that she “had talked at first hand with many sharecroppers and discussed theirproblems with Dr.Will Alexander, head of theFarm Security Administration.” The “problem,” as she had come to understand it, was not regional. It was linked to the economic and social woes of the entire nation. Sharing the podium with ER were Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union presidentJ. R. Butler, Raleigh News & Observer editorJonathan W. Daniels, Socialist Party spokesmanNorman Thomas, and NAACP assistant executive secretaryRoy Wilkins.
    Although Murray felt a “quiet joy” about the job she had done, she was worried about herhealth.Unable to sleep for long stretches, she propped up in bed with her typewriter and notepad. Hoping to make sense of her condition the best way she knew how, she began writing down her troubles and sorting through her thoughts. She had several concerns. One had to do with the pressures of her job and her uncertain employment status. At NSW headquarters, Murray ran a national project without adequate staff, money, or time. She would finish the job in a week or so and then be unemployed again.
    Another concern had to do with“family matters.” Her closest kin were in distress.Aunt Pauline was on leave from her teaching post because she had broken her leg. Aunt Sallie was unemployed and caring for Aunt Pauline. Aunt Sallie’s sons, now in Murray’s custody, were jobless, grieving the death of their father, and finding life inNew York difficult.As an unmarried daughter, Murray was expected to helpfinancially and, if necessary, return to Durham to care for her maternal aunts. As much as she wanted to be a good daughter, Murray loathed the idea of giving up life in New York for the restrictions of thesegregated South.
    Work demands and caring for her cousins made it hard for her to take care of herself. Irregular eating and sleeping habits weakened her immune system. She was plagued by viral infections. She

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