Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What's in a Name

I read an email today, oh boy, about a man and woman who made the grade. Yale's two new residential colleges are named for Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray and Benjamin Franklin.

Yale's undergraduates are assigned to one of twelve (soon to be fourteen) residential colleges:
The Residential College housing system is at the heart of the Yale experience. Before arriving as a freshman each student is randomly assigned to one of twelve residential colleges, giving Yalies a built-in community from the moment they arrive....The colleges provide an exceptional opportunity to meet and learn from students with different interests – people students might not otherwise encounter in their courses or extracurricular activities.
The current twelve colleges are named for Connecticut towns (Branford, Saybrook) and ten men (Berkeley, Calhoun, Davenport, Stiles, Edwards, Morse, Pierson, Silliman, Dwight, Trumbull) who lived hundreds of years ago. Since the 1990's there have been protests against naming the colleges after slave owners, in particular Vice President John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), who was one of slavery's most outspoken defenders. For now Yale has decided to retain Calhoun's name "to encourage the campus community to confront the history of slavery, and to teach that history and its legacy."

Concerning the two new colleges, everyone's acquainted with Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, but who is Pauli Murray? Excerpts from her Yale bio:
Pauli Murray (UNC Library image)
Pauli Murray (1910-1985) was a scholar, lawyer, and activist who fought to dismantle segregation and end discrimination through the courts and on the streets.

In a 1945 essay, “An American Credo,” she declared, “I am an American.” She explained that some of her ancestors came as immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, while others were aboard “chattel-ships from Africa” and still others were “indigenous.” This mixed heritage, she argued, animated her activism: “I will resist every attempt to categorize me, to place me in some caste, or to assign me to some segregated pigeonhole,” she declared.

After graduating first in her class (and the only female) from Howard’s law school in 1944, she applied to Harvard Law School. Despite her top grades at Howard and a letter from Harvard alumnus and United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harvard denied her application because she was not “of the sex entitled to be admitted to Harvard Law School.”[11] Undeterred, Murray moved west and received a master’s of law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, the following year. In 1946, she was named a deputy attorney general in California, making her the first black person in the state’s attorney general’s office.[12] From 1956 to 1960 she was an attorney with the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. She was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1960.

All her life, Pauli Murray valued both teaching and learning. An inveterate scholar, she ultimately earned degrees from Hunter College, Howard University, the University of California at Berkeley, Yale, and the General Theological Seminary.

At the age of 63, she became the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. After her ordination, she celebrated the Eucharist in the same church in North Carolina where her white slaveholding and black enslaved families had worshipped, albeit in different sections.
Yale gave careful consideration to the designation of the first residential college to be named after a non-white, non-male person who lived after the 19th century. It chose wisely.

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