Last week, 40 students from Carolina Friends School visited the Chapel of the Cross as part of their study of racial justice, Jim Crow laws, and the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. The students and their teachers also walked segments of the UNC campus Black and Carolina Blue tour but their primary intention was to spend time in our chapel with author and activist Rosita Stevens-Holsey. Ms Stevens-Holsey is Pauli Murray’s niece and in 2022, she published a biography in verse entitled, Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist. Though the book is written for middle schoolers, the storytelling and history are compelling for all ages.
The Friends students were especially interested (and outraged) to learn that Pauli Murray was excluded from the University of North Carolina because of the color of her skin, and later from Harvard Law School because of her gender. They were surprised that Pauli Murray’s arguments against segregation were used to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson and that her arguments for Equal Protection for women were used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They were curious that such a nimble legal mind would then be called to the priesthood, and they asked questions about the Episcopal Church, the ordination of women, and Holy Eucharist.
As the students boarded their buses to return to school, Ms Stevens-Holsey stopped at the Welcome Desk to say good-bye. It was, she said, the first time she had ever visited the Chapel of the Cross.