Aunt Pauline taught at a segregated school, which is where Murray was educated. The young Murray couldn’t avoid segregated schooling, but she could sometimes circumvent segregation elsewhere. She refused to get on Jim Crow streetcars, opting instead to walk or ride her bike. Murray didn’t go to the movies, because she would not climb the back stairs to the balcony. Instead, she read voraciously.
Murray refused again when she graduated from high school, declining to apply to the North Carolina College for Negroes. Hoping to get into a Northern university, she traveled to New York City but was told there that because her high school taught only through the 11th grade, she would first have to complete her education. Murray went to Richmond Hill High School in Queens, graduated, and then had to work for a year to earn enough money so that she could continue living in New York. Admitted to Hunter College in 1929, she became one of four African-Americans in a class of 247. She continued to work throughout college, earning so little in those years of the Depression and having to move so frequently that she lost 15 pounds during her first year of college and suffered from malnutrition and ill health for the rest of her life.