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Tue, 12.22.1857

Anna Evans Murray, Educator, and Child Advocate, born

Anna Evan Murray

*The birth of Anna Evans Murray is celebrated on this date in 1857.  She was a Black civic leader, educator, and early advocate for the training of kindergarten teachers.

Anna Evans was born in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1857. She was one of eight children of Henry Evans, an African American undertaker and cabinetmaker, and Henrietta Leary Evans, a woman of French and Croatan descent. In 1858, her father was one of a group of men arrested for the Oberlin–Wellington Rescue. Her uncle, Lewis Sheridan Leary, was killed in John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and her cousin John Anthony Copeland, Jr., was hanged with Brown. Years later, her mother delivered an address at Harpers Ferry at the second annual meeting of the Niagara Movement.

Her sister, Mary Evans Wilson, was one of Boston's leading civil rights activists. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1876. In 1879, she married Daniel Alexander Payne Murray, a historian and assistant librarian at the Library of Congress. After college, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught music at the Lucretia Mott Elementary School and Howard University. Her experience at the Mott school convinced her of the need for free kindergarten and special training for kindergarten teachers.

Starting in 1895, as chair of the Education Committee of the National League of Colored Women (NLCW), she campaigned to establish free kindergarten classes for black children in Washington, D.C. The League established six or seven local kindergartens, and in October 1896, she took over the management of a normal school founded by the NLCW to train kindergarten teachers. In 1898, she successfully lobbied Congress for federal funds to introduce kindergarten classes to the Washington D.C. public school system; it was the first time federal funds had been allocated for kindergarten education.

That same year, she and Sara I. Fleetwood represented the NLCW at the National Congress of Mothers, a convention in Washington D.C. that led to the formation of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). She met the philanthropist Phoebe Hearst at the convention and persuaded her to fund the Kindergarten Training School for five years. In 1906 she again secured federal funding, this time for kindergarten teacher training classes at the Miner Normal School. In the 1900s, she directed the kindergarten program at the Colored Settlement House (also known as the Social Settlement), whose leadership included Anna J. Cooper, Francis J. Grimké, and Mary Church Terrell.

She became nationally known as an advocate for kindergarten education, and local groups frequently sought her advice. In 1904 she published an article in the Southern Workman in which she recommended starting the education of children long before the age of six, which was then the legal age for children to start public school. She believed nursery schools should be part of the public school system and advocated for them throughout her career. She also wrote historical articles and contributed to her husband's Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race.  

On March 3, 1913, she was one of less than 100 black women who bravely marched in the Woman's suffrage parade. While in her seventies, she lobbied Congress for a health center to combat tuberculosis and for land to be converted to playgrounds near two local elementary schools. She was vice president of the Public-School Association, an officer of the Association for Childhood Education, and a member of the NAACP, the Citizens Advisory Committee on Hot Lunches for School Children, the YWCA, and St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

Anne Evens Murray had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood, graduated from college, and became successful in their chosen fields. She had twelve grandchildren. She died at her D.C. home on May 5, 1955, at 98.

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