As assistant librarian at the Library of Congress, Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925), created the authors and literature exhibit for W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal exhibition on African Americans at the 1900 Paris Exposition. In combination with photographs of black college and university students, and copies of patents and data compiled by Du Bois, Murray’s research showcased the existence of a black intellectual tradition in America.
Born in Baltimore, Murray moved to Washington at the age of nine to work for his brother, a caterer and the manager of the US Senate restaurant. Ten years later, the Librarian of Congress hired Murray as his personal assistant, and in 1881, he was promoted to assistant librarian. The 1,100 books and pamphlets Murray collected for the 1900 Exposition—500 were displayed in Paris—became the core collection of black-authored manuscripts at the Library of Congress.
Murray was also a writer himself. In a 1904 article for the Voice of the Negro, to which he was a frequent contributor, Murray advocated for economic boycotts in response to lynchings. He also testified before the US House of Representatives on Jim Crow laws. Murray was the first African American elected to the Washington Board of Trade, and he is credited with persuading the DC Commissioners to establish a manual training school for African Americans: Armstrong Manual Training School, which opened in 1902. Murray and his family lived at 934 S Street NW from at least 1891 until his death in 1925.