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Wed, 03.24.1852

Daniel P. Murray, Author, and Historian

Daniel Murray

*On this date, the birth of Daniel Alexander Payne Murray in 1852 is celebrated. He was a Black author, politician, and historian.

From Baltimore, Maryland, he was the son of a freed slave. At the age of nine, Murray moved to Washington, D.C., to work for his brother, a caterer, and manager of the United States Senate Restaurant.  In 1871, Murray became a member of the twelve-person staff of the Library of Congress as the personal assistant to Ainsworth Rand Spofford.

Murray was the second black to hold a professional position at the Library of Congress. Ten years later, he was promoted to the assistant librarian.  In 1899, Spofford's successor, Herbert Putnam, asked Murray to compile a collection of books and pamphlets by Black authors for a display of "Negro Authors" at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Murray published a preliminary list of titles in 1900, requesting public donations of listed works and suggestions. Soon his list grew to eleven hundred titles; his collection became the core of the Library of Congress's Colored Authors' Collection. Although Murray planned to expand this and create an encyclopedia of African American achievement, the project never received enough money to become a reality. Murray was widely acknowledged as an authority in African America.

He was also the first African American member of the Washington Board of Trade. He spoke before the House of Representatives about Jim Crow laws and the migration of African Americans from the rural south to urban areas. He was twice a delegate to the Republican National Convention and a member of many other councils and organizations.

Murray was a prolific author and a frequent contributor to Black journals, in particular, "The Voice of the Negro." Murray's personal library of African American works was donated to the Library of Congress after his death in 1925.

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