"WE OWE SO MUCH TO HER COURAGE, TO HER WILLINGNESS TO SPEAK OUT" (JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG): FIRST EDITION OF PROUD SHOES, 1956, THE "FIRST MAJOR LITERARY" WORK OF CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND ATTORNEY PAULI MURRAY, INSCRIBED IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION BY HER
MURRAY, Pauli. Proud Shoes. The Story of an American Family. New York: Harper & Brothers, (1956). Octavo, original gray cloth, original dust jacket. $4200.
First edition of Murray's powerful history of her family—looks "unflinchingly at issues of racism, sexism and miscegenation… a microcosm of African American history”—inscribed by her in the year of publication, "November 25, 1956, For Mr. and Mrs. R— W— with good wishes— Cordially— Pauli Murray," in very scarce dust jacket.
"At the forefront of social change in the U.S…. Pauli Murray achieved prominence as a lawyer, poet, educator and minister…. and demonstrated her commitment to 'consciousness combined with action.'" Orphaned as a child, she was raised in the home of her grandparents, and graduated from New York's Hunter College at the time of the Harlem Renaissance. She became active in civil rights in the early 1940s when she and a friend were arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus in the south. She also worked on "a coast-to-coast campaign for a new trial for Odell Waller, a Black sharecropper who, convicted by an all-white jury… was eventually executed for the murder of his landlord… Murray's involvement in the Waller case led to her decision to attend law school, and she entered Howard University in 1941 'with the single-minded intention of destroying Jim Crow'" (ANB). Before entering Howard she had been denied admission to the University of North Carolina because she was African American. Later, when she was refused entry to Harvard because she was a woman, she earned her LLM in 1945 from UC-Berkeley, and then her JD from Yale in 1965. "Murray was also one of the founders of the NOW, and in 1977 she was among the first ten women ordained in the Episcopal Church—the first African American woman ever to hold that office" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 516).
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg credited Murray for "inspiring an amicus brief Ginsburg wrote for the historic 1971 Supreme Court case Reed v. Reed
, which was the first time the nation's highest court recognized women as victims of sex discrimination." In the case, which involved a dispute between parents following the death of their son, Ginsburg noted that Murray, who was listed an honorary writer of the brief, "had the idea that we should interpret the text literally; it said 'any person' not 'any male person'… 'We knew when we were writing that brief that we were standing on her shoulders,' Ginsburg said. 'We owe so much to her courage, to her willingness to speak out when society was not prepared to listen'" (Time
"Years of historical research went into Murray's first major literary publication, Proud Shoes." In it she chronicles the extraordinary history and legacy of her family, including her grandmother, born enslaved, and her grandfather, a freed Black man wounded as a Union soldier in the Civil War. Her account looks "unflinchingly at issues of racism, sexism and miscegenation… and it has been read as a microcosm of African American history" (Oxford History, 516). In a later memoir, Murray proudly cited a review by Eleanor Roosevelt, who called it: "American history which all American citizens should read." Perhaps most importantly, Murray saw Proud Shoes as breaking new ground: "a forerunner of family stories growing out of the complex racial history of the U.S." (Song in a Weary Throat, 310-11). First edition, first printing: with code "I-F" on copyright page indicating printing in September 1956.
Book fine; small chip to upper front corner of very scarce near-fine dust jacket.