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'The Firebrand and the First Lady'

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In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech at the University of North Carolina and called himself a “proud and happy” alumnus and praised UNC for what he called its “liberal teaching.” The next day, a young African American woman activist sent the president a furious letter, chastising him for extolling the liberalism of UNC: an all-white institution that blacks like her couldn’t attend.

Although Franklin Roosevelt didn’t respond, Eleanor Roosevelt did. And that exchange sparked an epistolary friendship that deepened over time. That story is the basis of Patricia Bell-Scott’s new book The Firebrand and the First Lady, Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice.

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