From the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
JOHN COLE: We’re squeezing a few more members of the family in, but we’re doing it. I first learned about Daniel Murray back when I was a young librarian, before even The Center for the Book was created, which was 39 years ago. I was a collections librarian, and I was assigned to work on a collection called The Colored Author Collection, that had many labels called Colored Author across the front of them, but The Library of Congress had decided to do some things about this collection that were all good. Part of it was to put them into the general collections. Part of it was to sort out the valuable pamphlets that were going to be part of the Rare Book Division. And I had a partner, her name was Dorothy Porter, who was the director of The Howard Library, and she helped me on this, and we sorted. Many of the duplicates in some of the special books from the Daniel Murray Collection, that was left to the library after Mr. Murray died, were that way made part of the library’s permanent collections. And I wrote an article about it, and it was one of the first articles I ever wrote. It was in 1978. And guess what? 37 years later, now, I have found myself writing another article about Daniel Murray and I have learned so much about him and much of what I have learned really comes from this wonderful book that we’re going to hear more about today from the author. But, I must say that I’ve never forgotten what really struck me about Mr. Murray was his passion about the importance of literature and the way that literature and the literature of African Americans could tell their story in a permanent fashion. He devoted his life, as you will hear, to this was one of the several projects he was involved in, that it was his passion. The books and the love of literature that he’s left behind is now part of his legacy at The Library of Congress, not just through the collections that I’ve worked on, and many, many others have worked on, but also through the work of The Murray Association, which is carrying this tradition. Now, I first met our author, Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, Beth Taylor, a couple of decades ago when she was the Director of Interpretation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Beth, who holds a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, has spent more than 20 years in museum education and research, including not only Monticello, but also as Director of Education at James Madison’s Montpelier. Her museum experience and her great experience as a researcher, and her writing skills led naturally to now a career as an independent scholar who’s turning out wonderful books on important subjects.
Her first book, “A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons,” which was published in 2012, was a New York Times best seller and a National Book Award nominee. It also brought her to The Library of Congress for the first talk about her book. And at the same time it brought her to The Library of Congress National Book Festival to talk about the book. She is now back, and we are just delighted. She is now also, among her other lives, a lecturer and fellow at The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which I must say, to plug The Center for the Book, is the home for The Virginia Center for the Book, so our lives come together in many ways. Today The Library of Congress is very pleased to help her launch this new and very important history, a book about Daniel Murray and his remarkable family, but yes, also, as she herself describes it, it’s a book about America’s original black elite in what has now become a forgotten era in American History. Thank you, Beth, for reintroducing this era now in another period of our history and to another generation that has so much to learn from the story that you so skillfully tell. May I present Elizabeth Dowling Taylor. Thank you.
ELIZABETH D. TAYLOR: I’d like to thank Pam. I’d like to thank John. I’d like to thank The Center for the Book. I’d like to thank The Murray Association. I’m hoping you’ll make me an honorary member. And in general, there are many staff members at The Library of Congress to whom I owe a debt for their help with my research here. And indeed it was when I was researching my first book on Paul Jennings, James Madison’s enslaved man servant, that I stumbled across Daniel Murray. Daniel Murray, one of his first contributions to The Library of Congress, and he was an assistant librarian of Congress at a time when such professional appointments for black men were rare, and he started by putting together a list of 27, excuse me, 270 titles by African American authors. And one of them was the memoir by Paul Jennings, which The White House Historical Association considers to be the first memoir of life behind the scenes in the White House. Precious few copies of it had been made, and I would maintain that if it was not for the save by Daniel Murray, and this wasn’t the only important memoir or other notable works, that it would have been lost to obscurity all together.
My book is a biography of Daniel Murray, pioneer in the Black History Movement, major race activist, model civic citizen, and prominent member of Washington D.C.’s black elite. But it is also the story of a larger narrative, and that is the remarkable rise and disastrous decline of African American prospects over the span of Murray’s lifetime, 1851 to 1925. The rise of prospects for African Americans after emancipation brought, as one ex-slave put it, “a glorious harvest of good things.” In particular, the 14th and 15th amendments to The United States Constitution, which granted Americans of every color all rights, including the right to vote. But later the federal government, in the name of reconciliation with the former Confederate states, brought about a early abandonment of Reconstruction and ushered in a denial of the rights of African Americans that were embedded in that very Constitution. There was renewal in the south of oppression of African Americans that included stigmatization, discrimination, segregation, intimidation, terror. Now, I have long been a student of slavery, given my work at Monticello and Montpelier, and I know how important it is, how central it is to understanding American history. But I was a little bit slower in understanding that that period between emancipation and the modern civil rights era is just as central. Sometimes you mention the word Reconstruction to Americans and they’re not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. And I’m going to share with you a personal anecdote about my own ignorance prior to my intensive study of this era. I had a picture, a picture in my head of African American legislators in the halls of Congress looking like buffoonish rubes with hay seeds in their teeth. I, as part of my research for this current book, as difficult as it was, watched The Birth of a Nation, the original 1950 movie by D.W. Griffith. It was the second time I was watching it. I recall that I had watched it in high school in a humanities class. No discussion about the content. The whole point was to discuss Griffith’s innovative film techniques. And when I watched it this time there was a particular screen shot and there it was, shabbily dressed African Americans in the legislative chamber, one of them with bare feet up on a desk, looking enormous and close up, and in the background was his colleague gnawing on an enormous chicken leg. That was my picture. That was the picture in my head.
And it shows you how strong popular culture can be, especially visual images. And indeed this movie captivated the American public and put in their heads lots of false images that were not countered by our schooling, because of the inaccuracy of our schooling in presenting these parts of our history. So, to be sure, there were 23 African American gentlemen who served in the halls of Congress and in the Senate, and they did so with distinction. So, yes, Reconstruction was a good thing. It ended too early. What followed was a bad thing, and that of course was the Jim Crow era. Again, African Americans were abandoned by the federal government and allowed to be virtually re-enslaved by white supremacists. Now, we have to recognize all of our history, own all of our history, including the chapters that we’re ashamed of. And only then can we do a better job of considering the solutions to the legacies of these shameful chapters, if we have a full picture. Now, in telling my story of rise and reversal, I wanted, from the beginning, to personalize it in the lived experience of one man and his family. I chose Daniel Murray and his family, because I admire him and because as it turned out he was even a better choice than I realized initially. And that is because his arc fit the overall arc of the narrative almost perfectly. I also chose to focus on the black elite for two reasons. One was to underscore the heterogeneity of the African American experience. In our own time, we hear common reference to a phrase that’s one of my pet peeves, “the black community,” as if 42 million Americans formed an indistinguishable block. African Americans are certainly not a monolithic group today, but nor were they even in the time before the Civil War. The second reason that I focused on the black elite is because they put in highest relief, the absurdity of the notion of white supremacy. They were not works in progress. They had achieved high levels of education, accomplishment, gentility. They were prosperous. They were doctors. They were lawyers. They were businessmen. They were entrepreneurs. They were district or federal office clerks or held higher titles. So, they gave the lie to the contention by white supremacists that black Americans were incapable of contributing to mainstream society. Now, Daniel Murray was born in Washington’s sister city of Baltimore. And he came here at about age 18, after the Civil War. One of his half siblings who lived here was a caterer, and at the time he was the proprietor of one of the two restaurants in the United States Capitol Building. Now, in The Capitol Building there was a restaurant on the Congressional side and on the Senate side. And on the main floor of The Capitol was The Library of Congress. That’s where it got its start, and that is where it remained until 1897, when it moved over to the dedicated new structure that we now know as The Jefferson Building.
So, Danial Murray worked as a waiter for his brother in the Senate restaurant. And there, even as a waiter, he rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty, including not only law makers, but the librarian of Congress, Ainsworth Spofford. Spofford came to think highly of Murray, and he took him under his wing. He hired him into the library. Murray Started there in 1871 when he was 19. And you know, as I was just in the cab coming here today I, for the first time, figured out, did the math to figure out Murray was an employee at The Library of Congress for 52 years, and it just turns out that he spent 26 in the Capitol Building and 26 in The Jefferson Building, divided equally. Yes. Quite a career, but we’ll get to the sad part.
So, he worked in The Library of Congress, and Spofford trained him in the librarian’s trade, but in other ways too, including teaching him how to make research inquiries, and gather data, and encouraged him to pursue languages. They were very close. Spofford was a true mentor to Murray, and he advanced him readily. He got the title of Assistant Librarian of Congress, and he was indeed Spofford’s personal assistant. Well, that was all well and good, but Murray never relied, thank goodness, on his Library of Congress salary alone, and many in the black elite had a second stream of income. In Murray’s case he was a real estate and building entrepreneur. He was also very active in civic life, and I mean for decade, after decade, after decade. He was the first African American to be elected to The influential Board of Trade. He also married well. You know, the black elite in Washington was a very exclusive group, make no mistake, and you had to have a certain package of qualities to be admitted. Most were light skinned. Most had money, but neither one of those alone, or even the two combined, would be enough. The more important question was who are your people? Are you already related to established members of the black elite? Do you hail from a family line with notable Civil War heroes or abolitionists? Well, Anna Evans did, and in abundance. She was from the abolitionist town of Oberlin, Ohio and she had attended Oberlin College before her family moved to Washington D.C. And she was from a long line of abolitionists. Two of her relatives were two of the young men who sacrificed their lives as two of John Brown’s raiders at Harper’s Ferry. Another one of her relatives was Hiram Revels, and he was the first black citizen to serve in either house of Congress. So, this was a great match. Daniel Murray and Anna Murray were married in 1789. Thank you. You’re listening very well. Married in 1879. They had built for themselves an opulent house, especially in terms of interior design, in Northwest Washington on S Street. Murray was the first African American to live in that block. He integrated that block, and there were other black families to follow.
Now, there was a time for the black elite in Washington, and for African Americans at large, where everything was going swimmingly- the period from 1865 to 1875, so the passage of the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments, and also any number of civil rights measures, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which granted access, regardless of color, to all public facilities. Now, I’m not saying that color prejudice in Washington ever went away all together. Of course it did not, but there was a definite trend in that direction, to the point where incidents of discrimination would be called out as bucking that trend. Murray and his cohorts were primed to think of themselves as Americans first, people of color second, no apology for color. They were ready. It was the logical next step to assimilate into society at large.
Nobody knew that that Civil Rights Act of 1975 would be the last civil rights bill passed by Congress for 80 years. As W.E.B. DuBois later lamented, “The slave went free, stood for a brief moment in the sun, then turned back towards slavery.” Now, historians will tell you that the end of Reconstruction was the election of 1876. Rutherford B. Hayes was able to assume the presidency the next year, this was a contested election. But Democrats conceded a series of electoral votes if Hayes promised, which he did, to remove the last of the federal troops in the south that were enforcing Reconstruction commitments.
Now, I would say that was the beginning of the end. Sure enough, changes came swiftly for African Americans in the south, but for Murray and other members of the black elite in Washington it was a slower process, and it was a staggered progress. It took them until the decade of the 1890s to face the fact that there was a backward slide, that it was real, and that they were not to be considered exceptions, regardless of their accomplishments and their refinements.
When the rug was pulled out from under all African Americans, those in the black elite only had further to fall. More and more the only thing that was important was that one fatal drop of African blood. In Washington with each passing year, there was more segregation and more discrimination. In 1897 Murray faced a case of personal reversal. I have talked about how well his career at The Library of Congress was going. Well, this was until the change in sentiment in Washington as more southern racists were coming with their rabid brand of racism to Washington, and those black congressmen and senators were being replaced by southern, shall we say, colleagues. Probably not a good word. Murray lost the support of Ainsworth Spofford after he was no longer the Librarian of Congress. He stayed on as Chief Assistant Librarian. It had been he who had conceived of the whole need for a dedicated library building, because the books were overflowing to the max in the spaces they had in the Capitol. There had to be a great increase in staff, and there had to be a new organization of staff. And initially Murray was chosen to be the chief of the new division of periodicals. But, after Spofford could not support him the new librarian of Congress enacted a reorganization that demoted Murray from his high position and sent his salary flying backwards, not just to what he had been making before he got a raise along with a new title, but to what he had been making maybe a decade before. And I’ll say now, his salary never rose again for the remainder of his quarter century service to The Library of Congress. Now, what was the problem with Murray being head of the Periodicals Division? White men, about three white men, had to report to Murray, white underlings. That would not do. Now, I’m happy to insert here that today we are all, and Daniel Murray would be thrilled to know, that the Librarian of Congress is an African American to whom all 3,000 and some Library of Congress employees report to. He might question that it was a woman, but he’d be happy to know that it was an African American.
Now, the [inaudible] came with the administration of Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson was southern bred, as were many members of his cabinet, and it was their idea, for the first time, that federal offices should be segregated according to color. African Americans worked in screened off areas. They had to use “colored only” toilets. Same thing with their lunch room. This extended, sad to say, to The Library of Congress. One day Murray finds out there’s a separate cloak room for black men only, and in the lunch room there’s a sequestered area for African American employees. In the public cafeteria, well, not public after all, because neither visitors nor employees of color are welcome to eat in the public cafeteria.
Now, what the people in the black elite found out is that, as I’ve indicated, they were to be segregated and stigmatized with the rest of the race, but they were not going to take these changes laying down. They weren’t going to sit back and wait on white largess. They got organized and in 1898 the first truly national civil rights organization in America was formed, The National Afro-American Council. And Daniel Murray served on the first executive committee and was the chief of its legal and legislative bureau. And he and they worked very hard on a host of issues, anti-lynching, anti-Jim Crow, and perhaps most notably, they were the first civil rights organization to challenge in the court system the maneuvering that the southern states had done to get around the right to vote that every black American was guaranteed in the United States Constitution. Now, I’m sure that many of you are not familiar with the NAAC. You’ve heard about The Niagara Movement. Of course we all know about the NAACP, but as historian Rayford Logan has pointed out, The National Afro-American Council has not gotten the credit it deserves as the primary precursor of these other organizations. The membership was much greater and it lasted much longer than The Niagara Movement certainly. And the NAACP, when they put together their goals, their approach, their strategies, especially the idea of fight it out in the courts- that all came from the NAAC that Murray was so involved with. But there was an even stronger political stance that he took, passionist, as John called it earlier. That was the belief that scholarship can be put to the cause of Negro protest. So, Murray’s goal, Murray said that prejudice is the handmaiden of ignorance. Now, he had started out with this list of 270 works by African American authors. Well, believe me, that was only the beginning. The man become obsessive about carrying out this work. He was allowed to work in it, if he had a time here and there at The library of Congress, but most of it he did in his own time. And it just, it mushroomed, and he moved on. He always continued with the bibliography, but he moved onto biography as well. Then he moved on from African Americans to Euro-Africans as well, and he moved from literature and the polite arts to all fields of endeavor, and then to, as he would put it, the colored race throughout the world. And in the end, and he had mountains and mountains of sketches, 25,000 biographical sketches. In the end his goal was to produce a six volume, 800 pages each, what he called “Murray’s Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race Throughout the World.” This was his grand vision. This was his opus. Well, sad to say that he never did get to see it published. There was no publisher willing to underwrite an endeavor like that. Carter Woodson, he tried too. W.E.B. DuBois, he tried too. And it wasn’t until the last century of the 20th century, the last year, excuse me, of the 20th century that an Encyclopedia Africana saw printer’s ink.
Now, I am happy to say, and despite that little dig I had at Murray about women earlier, because you know it’s true that men at the time were loath to give women the intellectual credit they give themselves. But on the other hand, Anna Murray was an activist too, a race activist. Her husband was very supportive of what she did. They were like a power couple, the way that Mary Church Terrell and Robert Terrell were, for example. Some of you may be familiar with that couple. Well, Anna’s thing was early childhood intervention. You know, Murray said, “The true test of the progress of a people is to be found in their literature,” while Anna maintained that it was in the home that indicates any substantial progress of a race. And her idea was that if you can’t have proper upbringing in the home, as believe me, the black elite were careful to do with their children, very carefully cultivated. If that can’t always be the case in the home, then the next best thing is the kindergarten. And Anna Murray is the mother of public kindergartens in Washington D.C. And this would be both for white and for black pupils. She became, you know as time went by her interest in kindergartens became more overtly part of the cause. And she identified early childhood intervention as one of the solutions to the race problem. And she went all over the country as a race speaker, very well received. She was quite an orator. And she always, I must say, presented a striking appearance, because there was a strong genetic tradition in the Evans’ family to have premature white hair. And so, here she was at a very young age, still in her 20s, and she had this beautiful white hair. She was tall and slender. And very many descriptions of her are available, because she made such a striking appearance. But as I say, for all of this action there wasn’t any real progress. That’s one of the reasons why I admire Murray and Anna for their civic service on race issues and other issues is because it is frustrating. They waded in and they stayed in the water, and they stayed there, and kept fighting decade after decade. And the black elite, they certainly were disillusioned. Many found that their jobs were lost or stalled, as Daniel Murray did, that their incomes were decimated or irregular. They were denied access to public facilities. They faced humiliation and disrespect on a daily basis. And most importantly of all, they lost the prize. Washingtonians, as well as southern blacks, lost the vote.
Now, I’d like to turn to the next generation. You know, the Murrays had seven children. There were six sons and one daughter. Two, a son and a daughter, died as little children. And they were buried in a park like setting in an interracial cemetery in Washington. Later it was deemed that that cemetery was a health hazard, and Murray had to exhume the bodies of his little children, could find no other interracial cemetery that would accept them, tried 30 different places. And they ended up having to go to a new cemetery, which especially at that point was described as nothing more than a potter’s field, although it’s the cemetery where eventually all the Murray family members were buried and so were many other leading members of the black elite, like Blanche Bruce or John Mercer Langston. And I’m referring to Woodlawn Cemetery. It was especially ghoulish with the little girl, Helene. She had died of diphtheria, and so her body had to be drenched in a solution of chloride of lime before it could be reinterred. Now, there were five remaining sons. We all think of the American dream. One aspect of it is that one wants to see one’s children do better than one’s self. Well, this was not to be. If that’s true, then the Murray generation and the generations with his sons had much to be disillusioned about. His sons went to top colleges. All five have college degrees. One went to Harvard. Three of them went to Cornell. Of course at these schools discrimination was showing its ugly head.
The generation before, an African American could go to Cornell or go to Harvard, and there wasn’t any discussion about separate dormitories. But now the schools would tell you, in deference to students from the south, who found having to room with blacks odious, all of a sudden there was. Moreover, if you got through the experience, nevertheless … I want to mention, as a side, that one of Murray’s sons, his son, Nathaniel, was one of the six African Americans at Cornell University that founded the first black college fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. And that of course was a way to get around the isolation and to bond and support one another.
But, when they finished with their college education they found that the job pickings were slim to none, that there were very few career opportunities open to them. And that’s why Murray’s sons, Nathaniel and Henry, spent their working lives in the colored public school system in Washington. Some of you may be surprised to know, some of you may well already know this, that at the time that we’re referring to, the colored school system, the public colored school system in Washington was par excellante, all the way up to the capstone, which of course would be Howard University. A good reason for why that was so was because there were so many shall we say over-educated black men and women who found such career opportunities so limited in range that so many of them, even with PhDs, ended up working in the public school system.
Now, Harold had great job success, but he had to go to another country to find it, namely Mexico. Some of you who know Washington history may well be familiar with Lillian Evans-Tibbs, known professionally as Madam Evanti. She was a well-known opera singer. Well, what you might not know is that she was Anna Murray’s niece, and she faced the same kind of prospects. She had to go to Europe to have more career opportunity. She had a life’s goal of singing with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City, but because of her color, that was never allowed. Only two of Daniel and Anna Murray’s sons had children. One had two children, and Harold had 10 children. You shouldn’t be too surprised that all of the Murray descendants that are with us today are descendants of Harold Murray. I’m honored. We’re all honored. Your ancestors would be thrilled to know that you made the great effort to make the trip here today to honor his memory and Anna’s memory as well.
Well, in closing, I have a fair amount to say about what this book can show us. It’s a cautionary tale. There’s no mistake about that. Most Americans cherish our founding ideals, individual rights, equal treatment under the law, religious liberty. We like to think these ideals were not always honored. We have shameful chapters in our past. And to my mind the only way we can redeem ourselves as a nation is to honor those ideals in the future, even in times of hyped up fear. We like to believe that there’s a American master narrative and that it’s one of increasing freedoms over time. This story gives the lie to that. The American master narrative is not unidirectional, and it can reverse direction again at any time. I think the most extreme time that it’s happened in our past is the one that I’ve just described.
And here was a case where the Constitution spoke loud and clear, but was discounted. Moreover, we like to think of our nation as first and foremost, a country of laws. But not only the southern governments, but the United States government turned their backs on crime as serious as arson and lynching. So, yes. I think it’s a cautionary tale. Today we struggle with the elements of wanting our individual rights, but worrying about increased security. And we have to be very careful how much of the latter we’re willing to give up to fortify the former. And in this current political climate we need to worry about the ideas that are floating out there. Some Americans are more real Americans than others.
The very concept of religious liberty, one religion being favored over another. If religious liberty doesn’t exist for all sects, then it doesn’t exist. This idea that profiling, whether it be African Americans, or Muslims, or Arab looking people- the problem isn’t that we just have to stop describing it as politically correct. It’s not politically correct. It’s just correct. So, I would wonder if we shouldn’t move from a state of caution to a state of action. Rights won must be rights guarded. Our founders understood that. For self-representative government to succeed, it takes a free press, and it takes a vigilant and informed citizenry. Rights won must be rights guarded, or else, as in this case, they will need to be rights re-won. And it was a slow and torturous climb back up for African Americans.
I told you there’s no happy ending to this story, but I would maybe close by echoing the words of Congressman John Lewis, “Get in the way. Get in trouble, good trouble.” Thank you so much.
ELIZABETH: Yes, I was asked to expand on Daniel Murray’s business career. You know, he was well to do. In fact, he was one of the most well to do black Americans in Washington for sure. And as I mentioned, he never relied on his Library of Congress salary and instead he was very savvy in acquiring real estate. And you look at the original black leader in Washington- we’re talking about what some of you would be familiar names like Cooke and Syfax and Brent and Wormley. These were people who were here early. They had a leg up and that included the opportunity to buy land that later became prime real estate. Murray came here right after the war and he had those early pickings too. He also invested in stocks and bonds. He had numerous houses. He was both a building entrepreneur. He hired 50 black men at any one time. And his father in law and his mother was his construction foremen and he built way well over 100 structures in Washington- sometime these were houses for friends like Pinckney Pinchback. Sometimes they were spec houses. In one case, he built three houses near Logan Circle. One for himself and two to rent. In the end, once he built his house on S Street, he rented all three of those. He also had properties in Maryland. So, he was a savvy investor and given the stall that he had in salary at the Library of Congress, that served him well.
ELIZABETH: Well, I’m going to talk a little bit more about Murray and his cohorts and their efforts to make change- both politically and otherwise. I do want to mention first, his association with the Board of Trade. That was a very influential body given the government in Washington. And Murray, as I think I mentioned, was the first African American elected to the Board of Trade and did you know that the number of blacks increased, but it never kept pace with the overall increase of numbers on the Board of Trade. And then there were fewer and fewer African Americans- not only proportionally, but Daniel Murray was part of that Board of Trade until he died in 1925. I think he may well again of been the only African American on the Board of Trade at the end of his life. Well, there were two issues that he was compassionate about and worked on the Board of Trade and got to see ultimately after decades of effort, success with both of them. One was to establish in Washington, manual trade high schools. Manual education I call it, I should say because Murray was very sure that this wasn’t about training for trades, this was about acquiring and employing both the head and the hands to understand drawings and to be able to manufacture something from you know, two dimensions to three dimensions and so on.
And eventually, he and the other members of the Board of Trade were able to see two such high schools established in Washington and one for white pupils and Armstrong for black pupils and Anna’s brother, Bruce Evans was principal of Armstrong for many years. And the other was, to establish in Washington, a free public library open to all. The Library of Congress books don’t circulate there of course and at this time they didn’t have extended hours. So, that was very important and that eventually was realized with what was initially called the Carnegie Library Mount Vernon Square and of course lead directly to the Marlin Luther King Jr Library. So, those were two, those were two elements that he worked on that he could see through to fruition.
There were so many others that he did not. You know, the National Afro-American Council- some of the people involved included T. Thomas Fortune, He was really the instigator. Along with Bishop Alexander Walters who was the President for so long. And Murray interestingly enough, he’s not a lawyer. He was chosen to be the head of the legal and legislative bureau. And part of the reason for that is, over his time in the Library of Congress and at one point he had been assigned to the law library, he had not only a self-taught thorough grounding in law, but he gained much experience writing legislation and he, you know, whether it be with African American supporters or whether it be with white congressmen and senators and he knew how to network, there were many cases where legislation that was presented by a congressman or a senator was in fact written by Daniel Murray, including the whole e tax plan for Washington, DC- a change in the structure which was another Board of Trade activity.
But, again and again Washingtonians had to fight against Jim Crow cars coming into the city. They had bird-dogged that issue because over and over again it would come up. You know his, another active participant in the NAAC was George White and he introduced the first anti-lynching legislation and then there was one after another all the way into the 1920’s and none of them ever got through. Now, what Murray worked really hard on was in Louisiana, there was a grandfather’s clause, was part of their new constitution which was a way to suppress, almost entirely the black vote. In their constitution called for a literacy requirement. But, they said that if anyone was the descendent of the man who could vote in 1865, then they were exempt. They were grandfathered out. Well, that was, I mean obviously, that’s such an obvious way of getting around the intent of the 15th amendment and Murray and the other officers in the NAAC, took this on and as I say, it was the first time that a national civil rights organizations said let’s fight it out in the course. They didn’t get as far as the Supreme Court on a technicality, but they certainly lead the groundwork for that approach in the future.
PAM JACKSON: And, it is with very deep appreciation that we have you here and that you’ve shared the knowledge that you’ve shared. First of all, you talk with no notes. My gosh, the entire time. It was really awesome, but I think that one of the things that I’d like to emphasize here is how much we care about reading and writing- not just because we do it, but because we get to share it in the way you shared today and make it come alive and make it real for us. I feel now personally mentored by Daniel Murray from this talk- even more so from the words on the page although the words on the page are absolutely exquisite too. So, first of all, if you haven’t bought this, go buy it. It’s outside and there’ll be book signing. Elizabeth is generous enough to stay with us for a little while for book signing outside shortly, so make sure you do that. Again, on behalf of the Center for the Book and on behalf of the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, I thank you for being with us and joining us today in partnership with the Daniel A. P. Murray Association who has a special gift for the family which is this “Black Americans in Congress” book – they have a copy for each of the family members who are with us today.
Thank you. And we want to very much honor and celebrate you. Your heritage, your gift, your families gift. The gift that Daniel Murray is to us is huge. We can all take away from this talk, however much we knew before we came into the room. We certainly had an opportunity to take away from the room a very special incentive to take action. So, thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you for your attention. Take care and have a great afternoon.