Amazon Prime Video's "My Name is Pauli Murray" is a documentary about the adventurous, remarkable life of Pauli Murray, and their inspirational, effective efforts to fight for Human Rights in America during the 20th century. This emotional feature tells the story of an individual who audiences may or may not be familiar with, but familiar or not, Murray's story is moving from start to finish, and their fight is one we continue focusing on today.
It's immediately understood that Anna Pauline "Pauli" Murray was an iconic figure in both Black and LGBTQ+ communities. For viewers who receive this as their introduction to Murray, it sparks the thought of what happened to them, and how history has neglected to share their presence and influence. Their writings and perspective are perceived as well ahead of their time, with heavy consideration to all the segregational and civil rights issues ongoing during their life.
Murray adopted many titles in their lifetime. The shortlist includes writer, lawyer, priest, and poet. Their journey between each period of their life makes it a complete adventure that captures hopeless lows and illustrious highs while remaining touching and human at every beat. Throughout the documentary, short excerpts from Murray's texts speak to inconsistent Human Rights laws in America, in addition to their genuine expression of thought when faced with personal hardship.
During their life, Murray was discriminated against not only on the basis of race but gender as well. Describing themselves as "a girl who should've been a boy", viewers witness the questions and curiosities, along with the responses, for someone who didn't see themselves belonging to the systems set up when they were born.
It's an emotional watch, regarding the importance of identity and factoring it into moments of Murray's life. Despite their hardships, Murray's perseverance to keep fighting no matter the opposition is inspiring. Opposition like being locked out of schools, transportation, jobs, and more on categories of race and gender that Murray describes as finding arbitrary from the start.
The documentary is accurately littered with horrific imagery, photographs, and videos pulled from a severely segregated America. We call it hate crime and attacks fueled by racism today, but throughout Murray's life it wasn't uncommon to hear of lynchings taking place, and one particular mention in the documentary is that this accounted for 50-60 killings of Black Americans annually. It's shocking what images are included of the Ku Klux Klan rallies that amassed crowds of entire white families. We are also flashed with imagery of structural signs or designations of separate spaces for "separate but equal" facilities. Serving as a spectacle to Murray's life, it's important to see the world they lived in.
Interviews are included from those who service Murray's legacy well. They are activists, authors, family members, and more. They are black, white, mixed race, and all across the LGTBQ+ spectrum. The interviews help bridge the gap between these specific points of Murray's life and their associated writings. There is an excellent quote included from Murray, noting that they believed in "confrontation by typewriter" which is so telling of what their words were able to accomplish. A great portion of the documentary covers Murray's long lasting relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, with who they engaged first with their writing.
As Murray fought prejudice throughout their life, in the documentary there are dates along with how early they were to other major movements in history. Ultimately, we witness the extraordinary journey from an extraordinary individual who stood up so early in the fight against those who'd rather see them fade. Queer history is so lucky to have a powerhouse like Murray to hold in our hearts.
"My Name is Pauli Murray" was released on Amazon Prime Video as of October 1, 2021.
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