Pauli Murray and the March on Washington

Matthew Teutsch
6 min readOct 13, 2022

Recently, I wrote about how as I reread March and Darkroom I started thinking about the gutter within these texts, the moments and individuals that the texts do not have the space or the scope to cover. I wrote about Lillian Smith’s connection to the movement, a connection that does not fit in with the narrative scope of either March or Darkroom, both memoirs chronicling the experiences of John Lewis and Lila Quintero Weaver respectively. Even though Smith wouldn’t appear, the more I learn about other individuals in the movement, I ask myself, why couldn’t a panel or page illuminate their contributions? The main individual I am thinking about right now is Pauli Murray and her connection to the history of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

During the lead up to the 1963 March on Washington, March focuses on the work of A. Philip Randolph and his initial plans, in the early 1940s, to have a march on Washington to push for African Americans workers to become integrated into the war workforce and more. In the full page image of Randolph, as he stands with his left hand in his pocket and his right hand outstretched as if speaking, the narration reads, “The idea for the March on Washington came from A. Philip Randolph.” After extolling his work, even mentioning that “if he had been born at another time, he could’ve been president,” the narration points to the plans for the march that he envisioned and how the march didn’t happen because President Roosevelt “signed an executive order forbidding the defense industry from discrimination in hiring.”

March acknowledges the long history of the Civil Rights Movement through its recognition of Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and more in the organization and planning of the 1963 march, an event which brought to fruition Randolph’s plan from the 1940s. However, what this framing leaves out is Pauli Murray’s impact. March centers female members of movement such as Diane Nash, but when dealing with the long trajectory of the movement, men such as Randolph take center stage. Again, March cannot cover everything. It already covers so much, but once I learned about Murray’s role in the March on Washington Movement, I keep…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.