Yale University Names a Residential College in Honor of Pauli Murray

yaleYale University has decided not to change the name of Calhoun College, one of 12 undergraduate residential colleges on campus. Student groups had called on the university to rename the college, which honors John Calhoun, a graduate of Yale who served as vice president of the United States under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. A native of South Carolina, Calhoun was a major defender of the institution of slavery.

In announcing the decision not to rename the college, Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, stated that retaining the name would “encourage the campus community to confront the history of slavery, and to teach that history and its legacy.”

PauliMurrayOffsetting this decision was the simultaneous announcement that one of the new residential colleges on the Yale campus will be named for an African American. Pauli Murray College will honor the civil rights activist who graduated with a doctorate from Yale Law School in 1965. Murray, attended Hunter College in New York, but dropped out during the Great Depression. In 1938 she tried unsuccessfully to gain admission to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was denied admission due to her race.

In 1940, 15 years earlier than Rosa Parks, Murray was arrested for refusing to sit in the back of a bus in Virginia. She enrolled at the Howard University in 1941 and earned her degree in 1944. She later graduated from the Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California at Berkeley. Murray later become a vice president at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and then taught at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. At the age of 63, she became the first African American women to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. Dr. Murray died in 1985 and has since been named a saint of the church.

President Salovey stated that “Pauli Murray represents the best of Yale: a pre-eminent intellectual inspired to lead and prepared to serve her community and her country. She was at the intellectual forefront of the battles that defined twentieth-century America and continue to be part of our discourse today: civil rights, women’s rights, and the role of spirituality in modern society.”

Yale also announced that the heads of its 12 residential colleges would no longer be called “Master.” Instead they will be referred to as “Head of College.”

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  1. I was most disappointed to see that there was no mention of Dr. Murray being an “out” lesbian during her time at Howard, before, and for the remainder of her life. I know this because my mother, then Sadie J. Browne (now deceased) was her House Mother in Truth Hall and the person deemed responsible for her behavior. I can easily recount the story and it has a lot to tell about Pauli, the times, and Howard’s “arrangement” to make education possible for this absolutely brilliant, courageous and outstanding woman. Pauli also had other careers including working with emerging African nations as they pursued independence, and, if I remember correctly, she also penned a novel.

    I am grateful to JBHE with every publication I receive, but this omitted most significant fact was a marked disappointment.

    You may certainly publish my e-mail address.

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