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written by Linda Sittig with Linda Jackson King

illustrated by Whitney Truitt

Not long ago, public libraries in Virginia were not so public. It would take the courage of a young African-American woman, Josie C. Murray, to challenge that.

From a young age, Josie felt the supreme injustice of the Jim Crow South—ordering ice cream inside a restaurant and continuing her education beyond the seventh grade were opportunities denied to Josie during her childhood. Josie was surrounded by closed doors, barred from opportunities available to white people. But in 1957, when she was denied the ability to check out a book from the Purcellville Library because of the color of her skin, Josie took action. With the help of her husband, Sam Murray, a lawyer, and even President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Josie built a case and became the catalyst for all public buildings in Virginia to desegregate.

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Meet the Author

Award-winning writer Linda Harris Sittig was born in New York City, raised in northern New Jersey, and put down her adult roots in Virginia. A bachelor’s in history and a master’s in education led to a teaching career with Fairfax County Schools and the opportunity to be an adjunct professor at Shenandoah University. During her time teaching in Fairfax, the Greater Washington Reading Council selected Linda as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year. The following year, the Virginia State Reading Association honored her. A decade later, the International Reading Association awarded her the Outstanding International Elementary Reading Teacher of the Year medal.

Based on the belief that family literacy leads to lifelong readers, Linda wrote a fifteen-year weekly newspaper column, “Kinderbooks,” reviewing the best in children’s literature. The column ran in multiple newspapers in Washington, DC. Combining her passion for history and strong women, Linda created a blog,, where she highlights the stories of women who should have become famous.

 Linda’s sincere belief that every woman deserves to have her story told shows through her historical novels, Cut from Strong Cloth, Last Curtain Call, and Counting Crows. Linda Jackson King is the niece of Josie Murray and collaborated with Linda Sittig on Opening Closed Doors.

Press Kit


Format: Hardcover, Paperback

Pages:  32

ISBN HC: 978-1-958754-42-9

ISBN PB: 978-1-958754-41-2

Release Date: 5/9/2023


“I am so proud, overjoyed, and thankful that the story of my aunt Josie Cook Murray is being told and will be in print for children, and everyone, to enjoy. The story of the struggle and courage of both my aunt Josie Murray and my uncle Samuel Murray will inspire all who read this book. The story captures the essence of their struggle and how they became unsung heroes of the early civil rights movement.”

—Linda Jackson King, niece of Josie Cook Murray and Samuel Murray


“This book beautifully tells a story familiar to my family and me. As a boy, I spent several years in northern Virginia and remember the color line vividly described and recaptured in this story. We need to recall the courage and dignity of people like Josie and Sam Murray as they confronted the injustices of segregation.

“‘Mrs. Moore’ in the book is my great aunt Mable Francis ‘Mike’ Moore. She is also Mamie Eisenhower’s sister and my grandfather Dwight D. Eisenhower’s sister-in-law. I am thrilled that a record has been made of the small way that ‘Aunt Mike’ helped Josie Murray and others in that difficult time in our nation’s history. I predict that Opening Closed Doors will receive wide circulation and be read for many years. It describes a challenge that has long faced America and does so in a way that imparts confidence that a better world is possible. I thank Linda Sittig for sharing it; I am thrilled and proud that this story was brought to life.”

—David Eisenhower, author, director of the Institute for Public Service, Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania


“Linda Sittig uncovers a page from American history and provides a clear picture of living during segregation and the discriminatory Jim Crow practices. Told in a voice accessible to young students, the story gave me chills as I read about the community where I taught, yet never knew about Josie and Sam Murray. This book gives us some reassurance that laws can be changed to bring justice to those oppressed in our nation. It is a hopeful tale and one I am grateful to have read.”

—Elizabeth Evans, former librarian, Emerick Elementary School, Purcellville, Virginia


“Add the name of Josie Murray to the list of the previously unsung heroes who  fought back against the restrictions of Jim Crow America. Linda Sittig and Ms. Murray’s niece Linda Jackson King share her remarkable story of bravery and determination to break down the wall of racism that denied her and other African Americans the use of their community public library. Once the barrier was broken, the knowledge she gained and used earned her a visit to the White House. Highly engaging and compelling.”

—Deborah Taylor, retired librarian, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Maryland


“Written with the eye of a historian and the heart of a teacher, Linda Sittig’s Opening Closed Doors: The Story of Josie Murray is a must-read in the classroom. Students will admire Josie’s bravery and persistence in standing up for what is right. Josie’s story is a reminder that access to books can change history and lives.”

—Dr. Karen Huff, director of Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conferences

Meet the Illustrator

Whitney Truitt is a freelance children’s book illustrator. She graduated from Christopher Newport University where she earned a bachelor of arts degree. With the use of chalk pastels, her artwork mainly consists of portraits and landscapes created in traditional art style. Her first self-published children’s book, Wisdom of Xingfu, contains a collection of positive affirmations from fortune cookies.The book pulls from Chinese culture and promotes self-love and motivation.

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