Skip to content

Explore gender and race through a local lens with “Pauli Murray: Civil & Women’s Rights Trailblazer” lesson, Grades 9-12

After working in journalism in New York City for four years, Henderson Native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate Davis Harper moved back to North Carolina to become a teacher in the Durham Public Schools system. There, he works to “cast a spotlight on those narratives from history that not only enliven their time and place, but also help students better understand where they stand in the broader historical context.” Through a series of stimulating clips of an interview with Murray herself from the SOHP archive, Harper’s lesson plan on Durham native Pauli Murray certainly accomplishes this goal.

This lesson plan—created during the 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellowship—covers some of the most powerful and difficult experiences Murray faced during her lifetime. Clip topics include, but are not limited to, growing up in Durham and the city’s racial climate, applying to UNC in 1938, and her role in the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision. Harper highlights her many accomplishments and contributions to not only teach students about this influential local figure, but also to get them to think about selective public memory and why someone like Murray—compared to Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr.—isn’t more widely celebrated and remembered.

Harper also brings the conversation home for today’s students by including an optional discussion on what we can learn from Murray’s experiences about inequality in higher education today. With a guided oral history listening guide, numerous interview clips, and discussion-provoking questions for the classroom, this lesson plan is an invaluable tool for teaching about race, gender, inequality, and historical memory.

Download the lesson plan and the accompanying PowerPoint to use in your own classroom.