Pauli Murray: In & Out of the Pulpit


  • Donyelle C. McCray



This keynote address was delivered on August 6, 2018 at Societas Homiletica at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and explores the relationship between preaching and identity. The lecture introduces Pauli Murray, a local saint whose activism, writings, and ministry challenged the church and broader society. After a detailed introduction, I consider three principal influences on Pauli’s voice: Cornelia Smith Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, and James H. Cone. Cornelia Smith Fitzgerald, Pauli’s maternal grandmother, provided a lens for thinking about the ethical and spatial contexts in which sermons arise. Langston Hughes, a fêted poet and author, offered literary inspiration and a model for moving among different genres. James Cone, a path-breaking scholar, gave Pauli vital theological footing and a framework for linking preaching, identity, and activism. Overall, I argue that Pauli Murray makes a singular contribution to the study of African American preaching.

Author Biography

Donyelle C. McCray

Donyelle C. McCray serves as Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut. She is writing a book on Pauli Murray’s preaching and spirituality.