As Black History Month 2022 comes to a close, we are reminded of the many contributions of Library of Congress staffers over the years who have worked to collect, preserve, and share an American story that also includes the broad experiences and contributions of African Americans. Black History Month itself has its origins with the efforts of noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” who in 1926 began a week-long celebration in February to highlight the achievements of African Americans. Pioneering author and historian, Daniel A. P. Murray could very well be considered the father of Black history at the Library of Congress, for his influential work over his 51-year career, beginning in 1871, to include materials that document the stories and contributions of African Americans.
In 1871, Daniel A. P. Murray was only the second Black employee of the Library, yet after 10 years became assistant Librarian. Check out these Library resources to learn more about Murray and his trailblazing contributions:
- Daniel Murray: A Collector’s Legacy by John Y. Cole
“…Daniel Alexander Payne Murray spent 51 years (1871-1922) working at the Library of Congress, leaving a legacy of rare and important literary materials that document the lives and accomplishments of African Americans. He believed that ‘the true test of the progress of a people is to be found in their literature.’ An agent of change in a period when many African Americans were plagued by racial discrimination, unemployment, and poverty, he eventually bequeathed to the Library a unique collection of pamphlets and books about the contributions of African American writers and organizations working for political and social advancement. This collection, now in the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division, is available online. In 1979, the Daniel A.P. Murray Association was formed at the Library to honor Murray for his exceptional service.”
- African American Perspectives: Pamphlets From the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection
- The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray & the Story of a Forgotten Era (video)
- Inquiring Minds: Author Tells Story of Black Elite Through Library’s Daniel Murray
Murray’s legacy lives on through those who are and have been committed to diversity within the Library’s collections over the years. The current multi-year Of the People: Widening the Path initiative brings this commitment again to the forefront with programs to enhance and support diverse and inclusive participation in the creation and perpetuation of the nation’s historical and creative record. The work continues.