My Name Is Pauli Murray, the documentary about the trailblazing Black nonbinary civil rights activist, lawyer, Episcopal priest, and poet, is now a winner of the Peabody Award.
Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, announced the award Tuesday.
“Everyone should know about Pauli Murray,” Stevenson said. “Dr. Murray was a powerful force for change during the 20th century. Dr. Murray’s work confronted Jim Crow segregation, challenged the exclusion and suppression of women at a time when the barriers to opportunity and access to education were so rigid. Pauli Murray found a way to create precedents, to push through these obstacles and barriers, in a way that inspired so many. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Marian Wright Edelman, Thurgood Marshall were all influenced by the writings and work of Pauli Murray.”
The documentary, from directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, uses Murray’s own words extensively to show how she pushed for rights and opportunities for all. It also features interviews with numerous important figures, including Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, who started out as a lawyer focused on fighting sexism, and LGBTQ+ rights lawyer Chase Strangio.
Murray, who died in 1985, never got the attention their “monumental achievements” warranted, West said in accepting the award. “That’s all of our loss, because Murray’s story has such deep relevance,” she said. “To people of color. To LGBTQ people. To anyone who cares about justice or poetry or democracy.”
“Despite many setbacks, Murray remained committed to the idea of American democracy and came up with legal strategies to help get us closer to achieving equality for all,” said writer-producer Talleah Bridges-McMahon. “Murray’s ideas would eventually influence Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, helping to shape winning arguments they made before the Supreme Court. And Murray did all that while also writing some of the greatest unheralded works of American literature.”
Cohen added, “We’re so grateful the Peabody jurors have recognized My Name Is Pauli Murray as a story that matters, because whoa! Does this story matter. Most of all, we’re gratified that the Peabody honor will bring a new wave of interest to the life of Pauli Murray.”
The Peabody Awards are given annually to works that “powerfully reflect the pressing social issues and the vibrant emerging voices of our day,” according to a news release. The 30 awards bestowed each year are spread across the categories of categories of entertainment, documentary, news, podcast/radio, arts, children’s and youth, and public service.
My Name Is Pauli Murray was released by Amazon Studios and is available to stream on Prime Video. Watch a preview below.