Civil Rights Tour: Civic Activism: Murray Brothers and the Black Press

918-922 U Street NW

Murray Brothers Printing Company opened in 1907, at the height of an era when Black businesses proliferated in DC. In 1920, the Murrays built this building at 918-922 U Street, moving their business to the heart of the city's African American community.

Printing companies were an essential tool for independent Black newspapers, and these papers were a primary means for civil rights leaders to amplify the messages of organizations they led. F.H.M. Murray, whose sons ran the presses, worked closely with W.E.B. Du Bois in printing the NAACP’s Crisis newspaper when it launched in 1910. A decade later, the Murrays joined with editor William Walker to print the new Washington Tribune. The Tribune quickly became the city’s leading Black newspaper covering issues such as anti-Black police violence and opinion pieces demanding racial and economic justice.

Sports writer Sam Lacy, known for his long campaign to desegregate baseball, joined the Tribune in 1930. Lacy went on to write for Baltimore’s Afro-American newspaper from 1944 until his death in 2003. Among the many publications printed by Murray Brothers were several pamphlets written by Howard University sociologist Kelly Miller, including The political plight of the Negro (1913) and Segregation: the caste system, and the civil service (ca. 1914).

The Murray Brothers building also housed Murray’s Palace Casino, another family business. The building was designed by Black architect Isaiah T. Hatton, who also designed the Industrial Bank, at 11th and U, the Dunbar Theater and Southern Aid Society at 7th and T, and the Whitelaw Hotel at 13th and T, among other buildings in this neighborhood and throughout the city.