Posted on February 14, 2023

Pauli Murray Will Be First Black Queer Person on U.S. Currency

Trudy Ring, Advocate, February 10, 2023

Pauli Murray, nonbinary Black activist, lawyer, priest, and poet, will be featured on a quarter in the next round of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, making Murray the first Black queer person to appear on U.S. currency.

Murray’s quarter will be issued in 2024. Others in the 2024 group are Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War–era surgeon, women’s rights advocate, and abolitionist; Zitkala-Ša, a writer, composer, educator, and activist for Native Americans’ rights; and Celia Cruz, the Cuban-American singer known as the Queen of Salsa.


Murray, born in 1910 in Baltimore, was assigned female at birth but questioned their gender and is now understood as nonbinary. {snip}

Murray’s book States’ Laws on Race and Color, published in 1951, was described by civil rights lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as the Bible for civil rights litigators. {snip}

In the 1960s, Murray served on the Committee on Civil and Political Rights as part of President John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and continued to be active in the Black civil rights movement but objected to the fact that movement organizations were largely led by men while women did much of the work. In 1966, they helped found the National Organization for Women, “but later moved away from a leading role because s/he did not believe that NOW appropriately addressed the issues of Black and working-class women,” according to the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice.

Murray taught an American studies program at Brandeis University from 1968 to 1973. In 1973, following Barlow’s death, Murray entered General Theological Seminary, and in 1977 they were the first Black person perceived as a woman to become an Episcopal priest in the U.S.


David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, issued a statement praising the Mint’s honoring of Murray.


“We commend the U.S. Mint for honoring Pauli Murray, amongst a number of influential and groundbreaking women. The lives, contributions, and stories of Black trans, queer, and nonbinary/nonconforming people are fundamental to Black history and should continue to be told and celebrated.”