Daniel Murray Papers, 1881-1955, 1966

Summary Information
Title: Daniel Murray Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1881-1955, 1966

  • Murray, Daniel Alexander Payne, 1852-1925
Call Number: Micro 577

Quantity: 27 reels of microfilm (35mm)

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Papers of Danial Murray, a prominent Afro-American historian and bibliographer who worked at the Library of Congress between 1871 and 1922, and during his lifetime compiled an “Encyclopedia of the Colored Race.” Including over 25,000 biographical sketches and over 6000 titles of black-authored publications, the six-volume encyclopedia was never published. The papers include extensive correspondence, 1893-1925; notes and biographical sketches for the encyclopedia; materials documenting efforts to publish the encyclopedia; speeches and articles; business papers; programs and brochures; and family papers. The papers also document Murray's civic activities such as his work with the Colored American Council. Primary correspondents include Murray's wife, Anna Jane Evans Murray, and two sons, Daniel Evans Murray and George Henry Murray.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-micr0577
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Daniel Alexander Payne Murray, black bibliographer and historian, devoted twenty-five years of his life to a monumental project through which he hoped to make widely known the many accomplishments of blacks in all fields. Although his work, “Murray's Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race...,” was never published, Murray amassed a voluminous collection of data and became widely recognized as an authority on black history, biography, and bibliography. He was born on March 3, 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest son of a freed mulatto. Educated privately and at a Unitarian seminary, Murray went to Washington, D.C., at the age of nine to work for his brother, a caterer and manager of the United States Senate Restaurant.

Ten years later, on January 1, 1871, he joined the twelve-person staff of the Library of Congress as the personal assistant to the librarian, Ainsworth Rand Spofford. Murray's was a professional position, the second held by a black at the library. Spofford encouraged him to expand his education, especially in research techniques and modern languages, and promoted him to assistant librarian in 1881. As a member of the reference staff, Murray soon acquired a reputation for his prodigious and accurate memory.

In 1899 Spofford's successor, Herbert Putnam, asked Murray to compile a collection of books and pamphlets by black authors for a “Negro Literature” exhibit to be shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Murray soon published a preliminary list of 270 titles and appealed for information about additional works. By the time of the Paris Exposition, his list had expanded to eleven hundred titles, and continued to grow as the “Negro Literature” exhibit was subsequently displayed in several American cities before becoming the nucleus of the Library of Congress's “Colored Author Collection.”

As Murray's interest in black authors expanded to include black composers, inventors, artists, military and political leaders, and others, he developed the idea of assembling the data he was collecting in encyclopedic form. He made use of his exceptional opportunity for access to the research collections of the Library of Congress, and corresponded heavily with the subjects of his sketches and with others who were knowledgeable in the topics he planned to include in his encyclopedia.

Murray also corresponded with several publishers concerning his work, and in 1911 the World Cyclopedia Company announced that “Murray's Encyclopedia of the Colored Race” was complete and would be published during 1912 and 1913. It was intended to be a single authoritative source discussing the lives and accomplishments of blacks from the time of the Old Testament figure Hagar to the twentieth century as well as whites whose actions in some way affected the black race. There were to be over twenty-five thousand biographical sketches, titles of six thousand books and pamphlets and of five thousand musical compositions by blacks, and plot synopses of five hundred novels by white authors. The six-volume set was to sell, in monthly installments, for twenty-four dollars, but not enough subscribers came forward to enable publication.

Murray continued his research in the ensuing years and attempted unsuccessfully to interest several other publishers in his work. W. E. B. DuBois, who hoped to publish an “Encyclopedia Africana” of his own, was aware of Murray's work, having been invited in 1910 to serve as one of Murray's associate editors. In 1922, weeks before Murray's retirement from the Library of Congress, DuBois urged him to consider publishing parts of the encyclopedia in The Crisis, but Murray refused, preferring to leave his work to be published in its entirety by his sons.

In 1879 Murray had married Anna Jane Evans, a teacher educated at Oberlin College and Howard University and a niece of two of John Brown's five black recruits in the Harper's Ferry raid of 1859. The Murrays, who had seven children, were prominent in Washington social and civic life and were one of the wealthiest black families in the city. Murray, who was noted for his business acumen, constructed and owned many buildings in the Washington, D.C., area.

Murray was widely acknowledged as an authority, not only on black history and literature, but also on current political issues affecting his race. In recognition of his role in drafting the 1894 proposal which determined the share of federal support given the District of Columbia municipal government, the Washington Board of Trade made Murray its first black member. He served as the black representative on the committee which escorted Spanish-American War hero Admiral George Dewey from New York City to Washington, D.C., in September, 1899. In 1902 Murray testified before two subcommittees of the United States House about “Jim Crow” passenger cars and about the migration of blacks from rural to urban areas. He was an officer of the Colored American Council and of the committee responsible for black visitors during four presidential inaugurations, twice a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and a member of many other committees, councils, and organizations.

Murray was a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to black journals, especially The Voice of the Negro (1904-1907). In a 1904 article in that publication, “The Industrial Problem in the United States and the Negro's Relation to It,” he proposed that Southern blacks observe a semi-fast, avoid all labor, and pray for ten days following a lynching; the article aroused nationwide controversy among Afro-Americans. In recognition of his contributions to historical research, Wilberforce University awarded Murray an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1915.

On December 31, 1925, exactly three years after his retirement, Daniel Murray died, his encyclopedia still unpublished. His personal library of works by blacks, including 1,448 volumes and pamphlets, fourteen broadsides, and one map, was bequeathed to the Library of Congress, which later shared some of this material with the library of Howard University.

Provenance of the Collection

At Murray's death, his papers passed to his widow, Anna Murray, who made some additions and changes in an attempt to keep the information current. She also continued the unsuccessful search for a publisher and later attempted to sell the manuscripts.

In 1966, eleven years after her death, the Murrays' only surviving son, Harold Baldwin Murray, gave his father's manuscripts and some personal papers to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

The original papers, which were so brittle and soiled as to be unusable, were discarded after microfilming.

Scope and Content Note

The Daniel Murray Papers, 1881-1955 and 1966, are composed of a correspondence file, drafts and other material pertaining to “Murray's Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race...,” a small group of papers reflecting his other personal and professional activities, and an additional group of Murray family papers. The collection does not include a finished manuscript of the encyclopedia nor many significant details about his work at the Library of Congress, his role as a spokesperson for Afro-Americans, or his family and social life.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically from 1893 to 1925; it is largely incoming, with a small number of Murray's outgoing letters interfiled. Replies to Murray's attempts to obtain or verify information needed for his encyclopedia, requests for information on blacks, and letters pertaining to his involvement with numerous committees and associations compose much of the correspondence. Between 1902 and 1917 Murray corresponded with at least eight publishing houses concerning his work; included are extensive contract negotiations with R. R. Donnelley and Sons, Inc. (1911-1914). Of special interest are Murray's draft of a letter (March 1910) to the editor of the Washington, D.C., Evening Star, concerning a “race solution plan,” and the many responses to it; and his letter (October 29, 1910) inviting leading blacks in all fields to serve as associate editors of his encyclopedia, and their replies.

“Murray's Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia...”

The full title of Murray's encyclopedia, as announced in the 1912 prospectus, was to be Murray's Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race Throughout the World, Its Progress and Achievements from the Earliest Period Down to the Present Time, Embracing 25,000 biographical sketches of men and women of the colored race in every age. A bibliography of over 6,000 titles of books and pamphlets, which represent their contribution to the world's literature. A synoptical list of all books of fiction by Caucasian authors that deal with the race question as a feature. Also a list of nearly 5,000 Musical Compositions by Colored Composers in every part of the World.

The papers pertaining to this work, which comprise the bulk of the collection, have been arranged into two main groups: historical and biographical papers, and bibliographical papers. In addition, there are two small files: a group of papers collected after 1925 by Anna Murray, and material resulting from Murray's attempts to have the encyclopedia published.

The Historical and Biographical Papers include a 1911 draft of a foreword; 1901 and 1903 drafts of a preface updated in 1903 and 1923, respectively; an inventory of sketches; drafts of the sketches themselves; notes; annotated clippings; photographs; and a small group of miscellaneous papers.

The Inventory of Sketches, compiled by Anna Murray sometime between 1926 and 1950 and copied by her granddaughter in 1966, contains about 475 titles of biographical sketches written by Murray or his widow. Most, but not all, of these sketches were found in the collection, and the list does not include some sketches which do appear in the collection.

The Biographical Sketches, circa 1895-1930, together with the notes, embody Murray's years of research and writing. Both the sketches and the notes contain raw research data and completed or nearly-completed encyclopedia articles; although the sketches tend to be more polished, the main difference between the two groups of papers is in their physical format.

The sketches were written on full letter-size sheets, arranged alphabetically according to the titles which Murray assigned to the envelopes in which he kept them. Some of the envelopes contained typed copy complete with galley page numbers in their upper corners, or manuscript drafts of sketches; others contained clippings, tear sheets from newspapers and journals, government documents, books, pamphlets, letters, and other source material. The World Cyclopedia Company's 1912 prospectus for the encyclopedia indicated that twenty-five thousand biographical entries would be printed; although this part of the collection consists of no more than about five hundred such sketches, Murray's notes include drafts of many additional articles which were written on 3” x 5” cards.

Both the sketches and the notes often reflect the considerable effort Murray expended in trying to establish the exact racial identity of persons of mixed blood. His intent was to include at least rudimentary biographical information on all famous and infamous persons with any degree of black ancestry, and on all others who had done something remarkable affecting the race. Included are sketches on North Americans like Pocahontas, Peter Salem, Sojourner Truth, and Paul Laurence Dunbar; African figures such as Magda, Queen of Sheba, and Cetawayo, last king of the Zulus; Latin American leaders like Vicente Ramon Guerrero and Antonio Jose de Sucre; European literary and military figures; and on general subject headings such as “Ethiopic Literature,” “Lynchings,” and “Woman's Nature.”

Many of the Notes, circa 1895-1930, are similar to the sketches, although in somewhat less finished form. Others are rough outlines or fragments of data which Murray collected and never developed into finished encyclopedia articles. Most of these notes were handwritten on the backs of between thirty-five and forty thousand Library of Congress catalog cards, although there were also clippings and folded 9” x 5” sheets of note paper. The original file ran to nearly fifty linear feet.

While the notes are arranged alphabetically, Murray's choice of subject entry terms is often confusing, inconsistent, or overlapping. There are individual entries, for example, under “Prejudice,” “Color Prejudice,” and “Race Prejudice.” Most of the cards are numbered in a separate sequence for each article, and this order has been maintained despite inconsistencies in the subject headings within an article. Thus, cards labeled “Fallacies of History” appear as cards six through eight in a sequence entitled “Historical Doubts and Legendary Illusions of History.” Often an unusually long article, such as “Great Singers” or “European War,” will encompass many shorter ones; Murray's 152-card sequence on “Wrecked Lives,” for example, contains individual sketches of Lord Byron, Stephen Foster, and many other persons about whom he had written separate articles.

Murray collected data and wrote articles on many topics which, while of personal interest to himself, are of minimal relevance to the history of his race. In addition, the researcher is cautioned that not all of the cards reflect meticulous research into original sources. Murray apparently took notes on any information that might be of possible use in his encyclopedia, and later verified only a portion of those reporting rumors, innuendoes, and other leads. A significant number of the note cards, however, cite the published sources and page numbers from which Murray acquired his information.

The Annotated Clippings, 1881-1910 and undated, are arranged chronologically and consist of about forty clippings from Washington, D.C., and New York City newspapers and from black papers and journals. Some include introductions, additions, and comments written by Murray on the paper on which the clippings were mounted. Newspapers were an important and heavily used source for Murray; he often borrowed extensive quotations from newspaper articles when writing his sketches and articles. Many additional annotated clippings, mounted on catalog cards, were included in his notes, and many more unmounted clippings were too deteriorated to be filmed.

The Photographs consist of the partial contents of an envelope labeled “Pictures,” including photographs of several people about whom Murray wrote sketches, and miscellaneous photographs, including one of Murray himself. Some clippings filed here were too fragile to be filmed.

The Miscellaneous file consists of fragments of sketches and notes; lists; a few advertisements; programs and other printed material used as references; and several completed copies of a questionnaire distributed by Murray to gather information needed for his sketches. Insofar as is possible, the material is arranged alphabetically by subject.

The Bibliographical Papers includes articles, reviews, and lists of works by both black and Caucasian authors. Much of Murray's data on black authors and their writings resulted from his work in assembling the collection of books and pamphlets by blacks which was displayed in the American exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition. In his 153-page “Bibliography of Negro Literature and Historical Sketch of Negro Authors and Authorship,” which was the nucleus of the project, Murray discussed the growth of literacy among Afro-Americans and reviewed the lives and writings of major black authors from 1773 to 1840.

Three bibliographies follow. Murray's “First List of Books by Negro Authors” contains about 120 titles by eighty authors. The “List of Books and Pamphlets Belonging to the Duplicate Collection of Authors of the Colored Race” is an enumeration of 108 items from the collection of the Library of Congress which were sent to be bound on May 26, 1907. These and other early lists probably formed the basis for the most complete version of Murray's bibliographical compilation, “Titles of Books by Negro Authors.” This bibliography, consisting of about five thousand titles on 3” x 5” note cards, is arranged alphabetically by author.

Murray also intended to include in his encyclopedia a “list of all books of fiction by Caucasian authors that deal with the race question as a feature.” In “The Race Problem as Seen in Fiction,” his short introduction to this bibliography, he discussed “the power of the novel” in overcoming racial inequality. His “List of Books on Race Problem,” which is arranged alphabetically by author, includes more than six hundred titles of novels by Caucasian authors, over a third of which are accompanied by detailed plot synopses.

The miscellaneous bibliographical material includes a fragment of a short story, dated 1888; a list of books sent to Murray in 1900; a five-page article entitled “Three New Books on the So-Called Race Problem,” circa 1905; publishers' advertisements; and a sample form distributed by Murray to gather information on “Negro Books for Paris Exposition.”

The Material Collected by Anna Jane Evans Murray , 1926-1940, includes clippings; a prospectus for Who's Who in Colored America; additional miscellaneous bibliographical material; maps; and a mimeographed exchange of letters, 1940, concerning Booker T. Washington. Undoubtedly these constitute only a portion of the data which she added to the collection after her husband's death. Since it was often impossible to determine which materials pertaining to the encyclopedia were amassed after 1925, many such items collected by Murray's widow may have been inadvertently filed with his own research.

The Publication Attempts File , 1911-1914, is comprised of prospectuses and announcements of the intended publication of the encyclopedia by the World's Cyclopedia Company in 1912, and a list of subscribers to the expected publication. Included are a rough draft and final copy of the prospectus; an announcement which includes Murray's short autobiographical statement and an order blank; and several drafts of form letters to librarians, editors, and potential student canvassers. Additional information on Murray's attempts to publish his work can be found in his correspondence, 1902-1917.

The list of subscribers to the encyclopedia consists of an alphabetical file of twenty-one note cards, each recording the name and address of a subscriber, and the date and amount paid. The file indicates that Murray received subscriptions from November 1, 1911 to May 14, 1914, and that the “money [was] returned Feb. 3, 1916.”

Other Personal and Professional Papers

Papers which reflect Murray's personal and professional life apart from his work on the encyclopedia have been divided into political, civic, and social activities; speeches and articles; an address list; business affairs; and papers pertaining to his estate. The papers revealing Murray's Political, Civic, and Social Activities consist of form letters, programs, and miscellaneous notes dealing with about twenty-five associations, councils, and committees of which Murray was a member. Among these are the Colored American Council, of which he was treasurer, and the Inaugural Welcome Club, which he served as president and treasurer.

About 1906 Murray participated in an effort to secure government funds for the formation of a commission, of which he was to be a member, to collect historical material pertaining to the participation of Afro-Americans in wars; papers concerning this project are filed under “Historical Commission Proposal.” Material reflecting Murray's involvement in Republican Party politics, including his statement as a delegate to the 1920 Republican National Convention, is filed under “Political Activities.” Papers concerning the “Colored Branch” of the Washington, D.C., public schools are filed under “Public Schools.”

Murray's Speeches and Articles include speeches on industrial education and on the role of government in encouraging citizenship, and an article on the need for economic administration of the public schools.

The Address List consists of calling cards, and old catalog cards on which are written the names and addresses of about sixty individuals and twenty publishing houses. Arrangement is alphabetical.

Papers pertaining to Murray's Business Affairs reflect his investments, including extensive real estate holdings. Included are leases, mortgage payment receipts, and other financial material, arranged chronologically.

The papers concerning the Estate of Daniel Murray are comprised of lists of bonds and additional financial material, also arranged chronologically.

Murray Family Papers

The family material consists of papers of Murray's wife, Anna Jane Evans Murray (1858-1955), five of their seven children, and one daughter-in-law. Letters between family members are filed with the papers of the sender.

Anna Jane Evans Murray's papers, which include correspondence, financial material, and programs and brochures, reflect both her efforts to continue her husband's work following his death, and her own interests in early childhood education and various women's organizations.

The few papers of Daniel Evans Murray (1881-1916), George Henry Murray (1882-1965) and his wife Emma Green Murray (?-1950), Nathaniel Allison Murray (1884-?), Harold Baldwin Murray (1893- ), and Paul Evans Murray (1898-1949) provide fragmentary evidence of their respective professional, financial, and personal concerns.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Presented by Harold Baldwin Murray, 1966.

Processing Information

Prepared for microfilming by Jane Wolff and Eleanor McKay, February, 1977.

Contents List
Reel   1
Frame   1
Series: Correspondence, 1893-1925, undated
Series: “Murray's Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia...”
Subseries: Historical and Biographical Papers
Reel   1
Frame   663
Foreword, Draft of, 1911
Reel   1
Frame   673
Preface, Drafts of, 1901, 1903, 1923
Reel   1
Frame   690
Inventory of Sketches, post 192 (copy, 1966)
Biographical Sketches, Drafts of, undated
Reel   2
Abgar, XV Ucomo “The Black” - Bruce, Roscoe
Reel   3
Bryce, James - Dorsey, Thomas Joshua
Reel   4
Douglass, Frederick - Gloucester, John
Reel   5
Gomez, Sebastian - Johnson, William Henry
Reel   6
Jones, Absalom - Negro, Population Gain
Reel   7
Negro, Revolutionary War - Republic, Dominican
Reel   8
Revels, Hiram - Zamora, Louis Benoit
Notes, undated
Reel   9
Abbot Anderson - Biuus
Reel   10
Bivens - Christmas
Reel   11
Christmas in France - Czerny, George
Reel   12
Dabney Family - Exodus
Reel   13
Exodus - Great Singers
Reel   14
Great Singers - Inginac
Reel   15
Inginac - Leopardist
Reel   16
Leopold II - Monogenism
Reel   17
Monplaisir - Ostend
Reel   18
Ostracism - Pythias
Reel   19
Quadroon - San Domingo
Reel   20
San Domingo - Spyglass
Reel   21
Spyglass - Tucker
Reel   22
Tudas - White League
Reel   23
White Man's Burden - Zululand
Reel   24
Frame   0
Annotated Clippings, 1881-1910, undated
Reel   24
Frame   57
Photographs, 1886, 1916, 1917, undated
Reel   24
Frame   113
Miscellaneous, undated
Subseries: Bibliographical Papers, undated
Reel   24
Frame   344
“Bibliography of Negro Literature...,” undated
Reel   24
Frame   497
“First List of Books by Negro Authors,” undated
Reel   24
Frame   511
Book List: “Duplicate Collection of Authors of the Colored Race,” 1907
Reel   25
Bibliography: “Titles of Books by Negro Authors,” undated
Reel   26
Frame   1
Article: “The Race Problem as Seen in Fiction,” undated
Reel   26
Frame   13
“List of Books on Race Problem” (by Caucasian authors), undated
Reel   27
Frame   1
Miscellaneous, 1888, 1900, 1905, 1912, 1924, undated
Reel   27
Frame   75
Subseries: Material Collected by Anna Jane Evans Murray, 1926-1934, undated
Subseries: Publication Attempts File
Reel   27
Frame   116
Prospectuses and Announcements, 1912
Reel   27
Frame   161
List of Subscribers to the Encyclopedia, 1911-1914
Series: Other Personal and Professional Papers
Reel   27
Frame   184
Political, Civic, and Social Activities, 1895-1925
Reel   27
Frame   356
Speeches and Articles, 1911, undated
Reel   27
Frame   385
Address List, undated
Reel   27
Frame   422
Business Affairs, 1921-1925
Reel   27
Frame   442
Estate of Daniel Murray, 1926, 1952-1954
Series: Murray Family Papers, 1926, 1952-1954
Anna Jane Evans Murray (Mrs. Daniel Murray)
Reel   27
Frame   470
Correspondence, 1905, 1912, 1926-1940, 1954, undated
Reel   27
Frame   527
Financial Material, 1927, 1941, 1952
Reel   27
Frame   540
Programs and Brochures, 1896, 1911, 1926-1928, undated
Reel   27
Frame   577
Daniel Evans Murray, 1898, 1907, 1916
Reel   27
Frame   584
George Henry Murray, 1917-1955, undated
Reel   27
Frame   712
Emma Green Murray (Mrs. George Murray), 1947-1953
Reel   27
Frame   754
Nathaniel Allison Murray, circa 1905, 1920, 1952-1954
Reel   27
Frame   781
Harold Baldwin Murray, 1922, 1952, 1954
Reel   27
Frame   793
Paul Evans Murray, 1916, 1924, 1950-1954