Daniel A. P. Murray – A Legacy of Collecting Black History

Daniel A. P. Murray (1853-1925). Photographer unknown. Photograph, undated.

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:

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.

2 Comments

  1. Alison Noyes
    February 28, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    What a record of service: 51 years at the Library and 41 years as Assistant Librarian. The description of his title impressed me and sent me to the links to find out more about his role. However, it was chastening to read this Q and A, from the ‘Inquiring Minds: Author Tells Story of Black Elite Through Library’s Daniel Murray’ article:

    Q: “In 1897, Murray experienced a setback in his Library of Congress career. What happened and why?

    A: “Just two months after being named to helm the new Division of Periodicals, Murray was demoted and reassigned to his former position by newly appointed Librarian of Congress John Young. The reason given was “friction incident to caste.” Murray’s humiliation was exacerbated by a substantial drop in salary. He complained that his pay was now lower than that of others with similar duties. This injustice was ignored, and Murray’s salary never rose for the remainder of his tenure.”

    • Lola Pyne
      March 1, 2022 at 1:32 pm

      That’s correct. Murray served in various roles throughout his 51-year career at the Library, and, as noted in the Inquiring Minds blog cited, he suffered injustices as well. Thanks for the note and this post is now updated with respect to the time spent in these roles.

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