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The Firebrand and the First Lady by Patricia Bell-Scott

The Firebrand and the First Lady

Portrait of a Friendship

by Patricia Bell-Scott

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Title Details

Unabridged Edition
Running Time
14 Hrs. 26 Min.


An important, groundbreaking book - two decades in work - that tells the story of the unlikely but history-changing 28-year bond forged between Pauli Murray (granddaughter of a mulatto slave who, against all odds, as a lesbian black woman, became a lawyer, civil rights pioneer, Episcopal priest, poet, and activist) and Eleanor Roosevelt (first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1948 and human rights internationalist) that critically shaped Eleanor Roosevelt's, and therefore FDR's, view of race and racism in America.

It was a decades-long friendship - tender, moving, prodding, inspiring - sustained primarily through correspondence and characterized by brutal honesty, mutual admiration, and respect, revealing the generational and political differences each had to overcome in order to support one another's life. Of the two extraordinary women, one was at the center of world power, the other an outsider ostracized for the color of her skin, fighting with heart, soul, and intellect to push the world forward (she did!) and to become the figure for change she knew she was meant to be. The two were alike in many ways: losing both parents as children, being reared by elderly kin; each was a devoted Episcopalian with an abiding compassion for the helpless; each was possessed of boundless energy and fortitude yet susceptible to low spirits and anxiety; each was in a battle against shyness, learning to be outspoken; each was at her best when engaged in meaningful, important work. And each in her own society was sidelined as a woman and determined to upend the centuries-old social constriction....

A riveting portrait that shows how their friendship deepened and endured in the face of enormous social barriers and that makes clear how Pauli Murray, foremother of the modern-day black and feminist movements, crucially influenced Eleanor Roosevelt's progressive stance on civil and human rights, challenging her to take a stand for justice and freedom ("If some of our statements are bitter these days," Pauli Murray wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt in a postscript from a 1942 letter, "you must remember that truth is our only sword"). This is a book that reveals as well the profound impact of Eleanor Roosevelt's friendship on the shape of Murray's life as an activist, a lawyer, cofounder of the National Organization for Women, the principal strategist in the fight to preserve Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

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