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The Crownsville Scroll and more art by strikeWare

The Crownsville Scroll, 2020
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William H. Murray, one of the nine graduates memorialized in this exhibition, was beaten to death as an inmate here by a white guard in what newspapers at that time called “The Most Brutal Murder in Maryland’s History.” crownsville was notorious for overcrowding, patient abuse, refusal to integrate, and experimental operations - a grim example of how the state and federal government interpreted “public service” for Black citizens.

William H. Murray was also the father of Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray, who was a long time civil rights attorney and activist against racial and sexual discrimination. When she identified as a woman, she became the first African American Episcopal priest. Dr. Pauli Murray credits her father for the reason that she became a civil rights activist. Her life, accomplishments, and personal advancement as a Black, queer, feminist trailblazer was remarkable, yet unremarked by various institutions.

Upon graduating from Howard Law School in 1944, Murray received the honor as the first in her class. She was the only woman that year who graduated. The usual reward for this accomplishment is a prestigious fellowship at harvard university, yet harvard law school’s graduate program rejected her application most notably because of her gender, and very possibly because she was Black. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States himself (and an alumni of Harvard) had even written a letter of recommendation on her behalf to the president of the university so that she would attend.

Although Murray never identified as lesbian, her longest lasting relationships were with women. Refusing to accept the association between homosexuality and mental illness, she ultimately identified as a heterosexual man.

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