What is intersectionality’s origin story and how did it make its way into human rights? Beginning in the 1940s, Pauli Murray (1910–1985) used Jane Crow to capture two distinct relationships between race and sex discrimination. One Jane used the race-sex analogy to show that race and sex were both unconstitutionally arbitrary. The other Jane captured Black women’s experiences and rights deprivations at the intersection of race and sex. Both Janes were based on Murray’s fundamental belief that the struggles against race and sex discrimination were different phases of the fight for human rights.
In 1966, Murray was part of the American Civil Liberties Union team that litigated White v. Crook. In White, a three-judge federal district court panel declared Lowndes County, Alabama’s jury selection process discriminated against the county’s Black residents based on both race and sex in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. What appeared to be an intersectional victory for Black women, was, in fact, an analogical victory for white women. The reasoning and the remedy erased the Black women litigants and the Lowndes County Black Freedom Movement, both of which were essential to the litigation.
By situating White in the context of the Lowndes County movement, this Article demonstrates the centrality of Black feminist praxis to the county’s Black Freedom politics. The women in the movement took aim at Jane Crow which personified their intersectional experiences. Freedom for the county’s Black female majority did not require white women’s subjugation. By contrast, white women’s equality was a claim to share power with white men which included the power to maintain Jim and Jane Crow. Therefore, intersectional Jane and analogical Jane were on opposite sides of the fight for Black freedom in Lowndes County where white Jane’s equality required Black Jane to remain unfree.