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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1219

Papers of Muriel Morisey, 1924-2022 (inclusive), 1950-2016 (bulk)


Correspondence, writings, and other materials of lawyer Muriel Morisey primarily documenting her work with the Department of Justice, Harvard University, and Temple University as well as her personal relationships and family history.


  • 1924-2022
  • Majority of material found within 1950-2016


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research.

Folders #3.11 - 4.3 contain legal documents and are closed until January 1, 2054. Legal materials have been removed from folder #9.6 and are closed until January 1, 2030.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Muriel Morisey is held by Muriel Morisey. Upon her death, copyright will be transferred and assigned to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


4.38 linear feet ((11 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 3 photograph folders, and 1 folio+ photograph folder)

The collection gives insight into the evolution of Muriel Morisey's legal career, from her work at the Department of Justice to her eventual tenure as a law professor at Temple University, as well her interest and participation in various professional development opportunities. Aspects of Morisey's personal life are also reflected in this collection, particularly her lifelong passion for music, her friendships, and her interest in her family history. This collection is comprised primarily of personal and professional correspondence, memos, reports, and articles/writings by Muriel Morisey. Also included are newspaper clippings; obituaries and remembrances; invitations; press releases; conference agendas, notes, and other materials; notes; references; music programs; newsletters; speeches, remarks, and drafts; school transcripts and course work; certificates; journals; legal materials; and photographs.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1924-2021 (scattered), (#1.1-3.9, F+D.1), documents Morisey's life and personal relationships, including her desire to learn more about her family history. It includes correspondence from family members, including her brother Alex and her father Alexander (A.A.); family newsletters and updates on family activities, correspondence from friends, schoolmates, and acquaintances; newspaper clippings, transcripts, course work and class reunion materials, journal entries from various trips abroad, programs for Morisey's musical performances and recitals, invitations and greeting cards, obituaries and remembrances, and a few photographs. There is a small amount of correspondence between Morisey and her cousin, the writer and scholar Ralph Ellison, regarding their shared family history. Where possible, original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks; remaining titles were created by the processor. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL, 1970-2022 (#3.10-11.5), includes acceptances and rejections to various schools and jobs, conference and seminar remarks, pamphlets, and other materials; reports, memos, newspaper clippings, notes, writings by Morisey for others, correspondence with colleagues and advisees, photographs, and journal entries from work trips. Topics include Morisey's education at Radcliffe College and Georgetown University Law Center, her work with Congressman Walter Fauntroy, Morisey's involvement in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into President Nixon, her role as a senior legislative assistant for United States House of Representatives member Shirley Chisholm, Morisey's work as an attorney advisor and legislative counsel in the Department of Justice, her role as legislative counsel and later board member with the ACLU, her various positions at Harvard University, and her eventual tenure at Temple University. Where possible, original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks; remaining titles were created by the processor. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1955-2007 (scattered) (#PD.1-PD.4), includes photographs of Muriel Morisey and her family members, friends, and acquaintances at various events. Of note is a photograph of Muriel Morisey with Shirley Chisholm. Series is arranged chronologically.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Muriel Corinne Morisey was born on September 7, 1947, to Juanita Pope Morisey, an educator and social worker and Alfred Alexander Morisey (professionally known as A. A. Morisey) in Greensboro, North Carolina. Shortly after, the family moved to Winston-Salem where A. A. Morisey was the first Black reporter to work in the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinelnewsroom, and likely the first full-time Black reporter in the South to work in an all-white newsroom. In 1955, the family moved to Philadelphia seeking a better school environment for their children, as North Carolina schools were segregated. Morisey attended the Quaker Friends Select School from third through twelfth grade.

In 1965, Morisey was accepted into Radcliffe College at Harvard University. She graduated in 1969 with a BA in history. While studying at Radcliffe, Morisey was active in the Choral Society and the Memorial Church Choir. She was also involved with the Harvard-Radcliffe Association of African and Afro-American Students (AFRO), which at the time was lobbying Harvard to create a department of Black studies. This student activism led to the establishment of what is now called the Department of African and African American Studies.

Upon her graduation, Morisey spent a year teaching at Boston's Hilltop Center Head Start Program before taking a summer internship position at The New York Times where she covered congressional and government agency hearings among other events. After completing her internship, Morisey worked as a Style and Metro section reporter at The Washington Post from September 1970 to February 1971. She left the Post to work as a research aide in Walter Fauntroy's successful Congressional campaign. Morisey held a variety of jobs in Congressman Fauntroy's office including staff assistant, press secretary, and office administrator. While working for Congressman Fauntroy, Morisey began attending Georgetown University Law Center in the Evening Division. Morisey left Fauntroy's office in February of 1974 for a research assistant position with the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry of President Nixon.

After Nixon's resignation, Morisey spent a year as program associate and administrator at the Black Women's Community Development Foundation, an organization established to develop programs designed to aid Black women and their families. In 1975, she accepted a position as senior legislative assistant to United States (U.S.) Representative Shirley Chisholm. Morisey worked in Chisholm's office for four years, where she directed legislative work in the areas of education and civil rights, wrote speeches, analyzed bills, drafted amendments, and prepared briefing materials for hearings. She also acted as a liaison with other congressional staff and interest groups and was a frequent panelist at conferences and seminars on the legislative process. Morisey received her JD from Georgetown University in 1977. That summer, Morisey also delivered a series of lectures on American politics in Nairobi, Kenya, and Lusaka, Zambia, under the auspices of the United States Information Agency.

In 1978, Morisey was appointed to the District of Columbia Bar. That same year she was appointed as an attorney advisor in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legislative Affairs. In 1979, Assistant Attorney General Drew Days created the position of Legislative Counsel, Civil Rights Division, which Morisey held until 1983. Simultaneously from 1982 to 1983 she also held the part-time position of DOJ Complaint Adjudication Officer, which she performed alongside her legislative duties. In this position she made final agency determinations of DOJ employee and applicant allegations of discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, age, or religion. In 1980, Morisey received a special commendation at the Attorney General's annual awards ceremony for her "outstanding service to the Civil Rights Division."

In 1983 Morisey accepted the position of Legislative Counsel, Washington Office, for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was the first person with the ACLU to hold a position with a specific civil rights advocacy portfolio. Morisey worked with the ACLU until 1985, except for September through November 1984, when she went on leave from the ACLU to act as Deputy Issues Coordinator for the Mondale-Ferraro presidential campaign.

From 1985 through 1991 Morisey was Director of Policy Analysis in the Office of Government and Community Affairs at Harvard University, and Lecturer on Education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education from 1988-1991. From 1991 until her retirement in 2016 she was a professor at the Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law.

Throughout her career Morisey served on a variety of boards, holding leadership positions on many of them. Examples include the American Bar Association, where she served as Chair of the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Ethics, where Morisey served for two years on a committee of judges and legal ethics professors appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review and revise the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct.

Morisey married Clifford John Pugh on July 30th, 1971. They divorced in December of 1977. Morisey later married Greggory Keith Spence on October 1, 1983. Their son Andrew Alexander Spence was born on May 19, 1987. Morisey and Spence divorced in 1998. She married Peter Wathen-Dunn in 2002.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1924-2021 (#1.1-3.9, F+D.1)
  2. Series II. Professional Activities, 1970-2022 (#3.10-11.5)
  3. Series III. Photographs, 1955-2007 (#PD.1-PD.4)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2022-M55

The papers of Muriel Morisey were given to the Schlesinger Library by Muriel Morisey in March 2022.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Essay on Radcliffe College by Muriel Morisey, 1986 (RA.A/S714).

The Harvard University Archives holds an oral history with Muriel Morisey conducted by an undergraduate history student in 2021; see Oral histories conducted by students in the course HIST 1636 Intro to Harvard History, 2021 (HUC 8999.2021).

Processing Information

Processed: March 2023

By: Emily Mathay, with assistance from Janin I. Escobedo Garcia.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Morisey, Muriel, 1947-. Papers of Muriel Morisey, 1924-2002 (inclusive), 1950-2016 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Susan Parkman Atkinson Fund, Mary Brown Milbank Fund, and Patricia M. King/Schlesinger Library Director's Fund

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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