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A Civil Rights Organizer Condemns "Jane Crow"

Pauli Murray entered law school in 1941 with the "single-minded intention of destroying Jim Crow." Though on the frontlines of civil rights demonstrations and behind the scenes of many organizational meetings since the 1940s, Murray and other students had grown disenchanted with their exclusion from the Movement's leadership. Especially humiliating to Murray was the absence of women speakers at the 1963 March on Washington. In this speech (later distributed in a pamphlet) to the National Council of Negro Women, Murray articulated the dual burdens of racism and sexism black women faced, and called for white and black women to work together to end their shared problems.

Negro women, historically, have carried the dual burden of Jim Crow and Jane Crow. They have not always carried it graciously but they have carried it effectively... In the course of their climb, Negro women have had to fight against the stereotypes of "female dominance" on the one hand and loose morals on the other hand, both growing out of the roles forced upon them during the slavery experience and its aftermath. But out of their struggle for human dignity, they also developed a tradition of independence and self-reliance...

In the human rights battle, America has seen the image of the Negro evolving through many women...  Not only have women whose names are well known given this great human effort its peculiar vitality but women in the many communities whose names will never be known have revealed the courage and strength of the Negro woman.  These are the mothers who have stood in school yards with their children, many times alone.  These are the images which have touched America's heart.  Painful as these experiences have been, one cannot help asking: would the Negro struggle have come this far without the indomitable determination of its women?

Recent disquieting events have made imperative an assessment of the role of the Negro woman in the quest for equality.  The civil rights revolt, like many social upheavals, has released powerful pent-up emotions, cross currents, rivalries and hostilities...  There is much jockeying for position as ambitious men push and elbow that way to leadership roles...

What emerges most clearly from events of the past several months is the tendency to assign women to a secondary, ornamental or "honoree" role instead of the partnership role in the civil rights movement which they have earned by their courage, intelligence, and dedication.  It was bitterly humiliating for Negro women on August 28 to see themselves accorded little more than token recognition in the historic March on Washington.  Not a single woman was invited to make one of the major speeches or to be part of the delegation of leaders who went to the White House.  This omission was deliberate.  Representations for recognition of women were made to the policy-making body sufficiently in advance of the August 28 arrangements to have permitted the necessary adjustments of the program.  What the Negro women leaders were told is revealing: that no representation was given to them because they would not be able to agree on a delegate.  How familiar was this excuse!  It is a typical response from an entrenched power group... 

Source | Pauli Murray, "The Negro Woman in the Quest for Equality," speech, 14 November 1963, reprinted from The Acorn (June 1964), Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, available from Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000,
Creator | Pauli Murray
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Pauli Murray, “A Civil Rights Organizer Condemns "Jane Crow",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 26, 2024,

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