Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a freed slave. At the age of nine, he moved to Washington, D.C. to work for his brother, a caterer and manager of the United States Senate Restaurant. Ten years later, in 1871, Murray became a member of the twelve-person staff of the Library of Congress as the personal assistant to the Librarian of Congress, Ainsworth Rand Spofford. Murray was the second African-American to hold a professional position at the Library of Congress. In 1881, he was promoted to assistant librarian.
In 1899, Spofford's successor, Herbert Putnam, asked Murray to compile a collection of books and pamphlets by black authors for an exhibition of "Negro Authors" at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Murray published a preliminary list of titles in 1900, appealing to the public for donations of listed works, as well as suggested additions. Within several months, his list had grown to eleven hundred titles; his collection became the core of the Library of Congress's "Colored Authors' Collection." Although Murray planned to expand his collection and create an encyclopedia of African-American achievement, the project never received sufficient support to become a reality.
Murray was widely acknowledged as an authority on African-American concerns. He was the first African-American member of the Washington Board of Trade, and he testified before the House of Representatives about Jim Crow laws and the migration of African-Americans from rural locations to urban areas. He was twice a delegate to the Republican National Convention and was a member of many other councils and organizations. He was also a prolific author, and a frequent contributor to African-American journals, in particular The Voice of the Negro. Murray's personal library of African-American works was bequeathed to the Library of Congress upon his death in 1925.
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