Poetry by Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray was a prolific writer throughout her life. Preeminent scholar Patricia Bell Scott has written, “Whenever Murray was asked to name the accomplishments of which she was most proud, she consistently placed her writing at the top of the list. Clearly, it was her desire that assessments of her life consider the merits of all the work she left behind. Along with a brilliant record of activism, Murray left poetry that is a bridge between the writers of the Harlem Renaissance and the black cultural arts movement of the sixties.More

In 1978, Pauli Murray published Dark Testament and Other Poems which included the following:

DARK TESTAMENT: VERSE 8

Listen to Courtney Reid-Eaton’s reading of this poem from the July 1, 2009 Episcopal Service honoring Pauli Murray at St. Titus Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina.


Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty –

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

PROPHECY
Listen to Courtney Reid-Eaton’s reading of this poem from the July 1, 2009 Episcopal Service honoring Pauli Murray at St. Titus Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina.


I sing of a new American

Separate from all others,

Yet enlarged and diminished by all others.

I am the child of kings and serfs, freemen and slaves,

Having neither superiors nor inferiors,

Progeny of all colors, all cultures, all systems, all beliefs.

I have been enslaved, yet my spirit is unbound.

I have been cast aside, but I sparkle in the darkness.

I have been slain but live on in the river of history.

I seek no conquest, no wealth, no power, no revenge:

I seek only discovery

Of the illimitable heights and depths of my own being.

Cambridge, 1969