Daniel Murray Papers, 1881-1955, 1966

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.