Fifteen years before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat, a full decade before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned separate-but-equal legislation, Pauli Murray was already knee-deep fighting for social justice. A pioneering attorney, activist, priest and dedicated memoirist, Murray shaped landmark litigation—and consciousness— around race and gender equity. As an African American youth raised in the segregated South—who was also wrestling with broader notions of gender identity—Pauli understood, intrinsically, what it was to exist beyond previously accepted categories and cultural norms. Both Pauli’s personal path and tireless advocacy foreshadowed some of the most politically consequential issues of our time. Told largely in Pauli’s own words, My Name is Pauli Murray is a candid recounting of that unique and extraordinary journey.

My Name is Pauli Murray
By Ashleigh Clyde, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 17

The documentary My Name is Pauli Murray is a missing piece of history that has not been taught in our classrooms. It amplifies the life of an African American female whose struggles pushed her to create everlasting change in our modern society.

My Name is Pauli Murray shares the life of Pauli Murray, an African American queer woman, who shattered the status quo by fighting for women’s and civil rights. She was a student, lawyer, minister and a heroine in many aspects. This documentary sheds light on all of her societal triumphs and personal defeats.

As an African American female, I felt a great sense of sadness after watching this documentary. This film shows that the society I currently live in is a direct result of Pauli Murray’s impact and yet, I never learned about her in school. Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, producers and directors of the documentary RBG bring to live the legacy of a woman unknown to most people. There are little questions the audience has about her life after the film’s completion. One aspect I did not like is how the film breaks her life into phases of her career paths. This set-up hampers us from seeing the connection between her personal life and her careers. However, that may be due to my curiosity about knowing more about her and her life. My favorite part of this film is the repetition of the quote, “She was ahead of her time.” Pauli Murray refused to move to the back of a segregated bus 15 years before Rosa Parks did. Many people think that certain historical events, radical ideals, and justice comes with a timeframe when, in actuality it does not. That is what this film teaches us.

The message of this film is that you are not ahead of your time; it’s just that the world may not be ready for you. Yet, soon enough, they will be. This film does contain violent scenes showing racial injustice.

I give My Name is Pauli Murray 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. My Name is Pauli Murray opens in theatres September 17 and streams on Prime Video October 1, 2021.

My Name is Pauli Murray
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

My Name is Pauli Murray is a documentary about Pauli Murray, a civil rights activist, women’s rights activists, lawyer and poet and non-binary advocate for LGBTQ rights. It goes into detail about Pauli’s life, as well as the many great things Pauli accomplished and the impact they left on the future. This film is very informative and overall a well-structured documentary. It was an enjoyable viewing experience.

It was really interesting to learn about Pauli Murray, because before watching this film, I had no idea who they were. And Pauli was definitely a person who deserves to be remembered—not just for their legacy and cultural impact but also for who they were as a person. My Name is Pauli Murray does take time to discuss Pauli’s personal life and hardships, and that is one way in which this film makes Pauli relatable to  people of this generation. I was particularly interested in the discussions of gender identity and presentation. It was heartbreaking to hear about Pauli’s difficulties being non-binary, because nowadays we do have words to describe what Pauli felt.

I also really enjoyed the editing and presentation of this documentary. Not only was this film extremely educational and thought provoking, but it was also fun to watch. There were many instances where quotes from Pauli would appear on screen to drive the point of a specific section, which was very effective. My Name is Pauli Murray has a unique visual style, and the pacing is excellent.

I definitely think My Name is Pauli Murray is crucial viewing for anyone who is interested in civil rights and gender equality. The film tells a very inspirational story about an unsung hero who was before their time and who deserves to be heard. However, it should be known that this film includes graphic depictions, as well as descriptions, of racist hate crimes. There are many moments that showcase photos and footage of these events, and this could be potentially triggering.

I give My Name is Pauli Murray 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. This film comes out in theaters September 17, 2021 and will be released on Prime Video on October 1, 2021.

Keywords My name is Pauli Murray, Julie Cohen, Betsy West, Talleah Bridges McMahon, Cinque Northern, Patricia Bell-Scott, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, black history, Thurgood Marshall, civil rights, Rosa Parks


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