”My Name is Pauli Murray” with Julie Cohen & Betsy West

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141 boxes. That’s a lot of stuff. But, if that “stuff” happens to be the Pauli Murray Papers at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, then you may well have just struck documentary gold. Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen first learned of Murray when they were in the throes of research for their Oscar-nominated documentary “RBG” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Later, after immersing themselves in those archives (in addition to speaking to scholars and those who knew Murray), West and Cohen were amazed to learn how often this pathbreaking legal scholar and civil and women’s rights pioneer was years ahead of the times.

Recently, Ken and Mike had the opportunity to talk to Betsy and Julie about their deeply moving documentary portrait, “My Name is Pauli Murray” and the creative choices that guided them along the way. How did RBG provide the first clue that led them on this journey? How did they make the decision to consider Murray’s life as a queer, non-binary person, as well as include Murray’s key romantic partnership in the film, even though, during Murray’s own life, those subjects remained private? How was first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s life changed by knowing Murray? And how did a cameo by Murray’s dog, Roy, in a grainy bit of black-and-white footage, practically steal the show? As Betsy says, “I’m amazed that Pauli isn’t in our history books.” Now, thanks to “My Name is Pauli Murray”, we can say that Murray has gone one step further: Pauli Murray is a star on Amazon Prime. Check out the film there and enjoy our interview.

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