Christian, queer and interracial: the story of Pauli Murray and Irene Barlow

The purpose of my research is to tell a story about a queer interracial couple that used Christianity to create a relationship, in a climate of homophobia and antimiscegenation. Pauli Murray and Irene Barlow’s partnership began in the 1950s and ended in the 1970s. I argue that Christianity was the foundation of this taboo love. I situate the couple within a larger history of Protestant American queers using religion as a means of intimacy and identity formation pre-1980s. In chapter 1, I trace how Murray and Barlow’s Christian love strengthened them in their relationship. In chapter 2, I examine how Murray used the Episcopalian faith to connect with Barlow after she died. I conclude with reflections about contemporary understandings of marriage, Christianity and the LGBT community.