Pioneer in African-American History is subject of book discussion


— Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925) was only the second African American to work at the Library of Congress when he joined the staff in 1871; 10 years later he became assistant librarian, a position he held for 41 years. Murray bequeathed his papers to the Library upon his death in 1925.

The story of Murray and the rise and fall of America’s black upper class of that time in U.S. history is the subject of a new book by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, “The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era” (Amistad, 2017).

Taylor will discuss and sign her work at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. This Books & Beyond event, part of the Library’s observance of African-American History Month, is co-sponsored by the Center for the Book and the Daniel A.P. Murray Association of the Library of Congress. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

When Murray went to work for the Library, government jobs were among the most prestigious jobs available to African Americans. Murray also had a construction business, which made him wealthy, but Jim Crow laws and the proliferation of white supremacist groups during that era halted the rise of elites such as Murray.

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor has worked more than 20 years in museum education and historical research. She was director of interpretation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and director of education at James Madison’s Montpelier. Most recently a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Taylor is now an independent scholar and lecturer. She is also the author of “A Slave in the White House.”

The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading promotion partners and through its Young Readers Center and its Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit

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