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Collection African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection

The Progress of a People

Attend a Meeting of the National Afro-American Council

American Sketches: A Negro Congregation in Washington. Artist unknown. Wood Engraving, Illustrated London News, November 18, 1876. LC-USZ62-50584.

In 1898, the National Afro-American Council met in Washington, D.C., to consider the status of the race. Although the Daniel A. P. Murray Pamphlet Collection pamphlets do not include the actual speeches made at that meeting, similar voices, ideas, and concerns were heard. Listen in on a reading or two and join the Council sessions.

Daniel A. P. Murray and His Mission

In 1899, Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam asked Library of Congress staff member Daniel A. P. Murray "to secure a copy of every book and pamphlet in existence, by a Negro Author, to be used in connection with the Exhibit of Negro Authorship at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and later placed in the Library of Congress." In consultation with African-American scholars across the country, Murray developed a list of 1,100 works. Five hundred of these were displayed in Paris.

Preliminary list of books and pamphlets by negro authors. Washington, D.C., U.S. commission to the Paris exposition, 1900. Z1361.N39 M9 1900

Along with Murray's books and pamphlets, the display at the Paris Exposition consisted of photographs, charts, and works of art. There were portraits of African-American winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, drawings of inventions patented by African-Americans, and photographs of the homes, schools, churches, and work places of black Americans. This unique display -- organized by African-American leader and scholar W. E. B. Du Bois -- won several medals, and much attention from visitors to the exposition. Du Bois called it "an honest, straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves."

Exhibit of American Negroes at the Paris Exposition. Photographer unknown. Photograph undated, in Review of Reviews, vol. 22.

After the Paris Exposition, the works collected by Daniel A. P. Murray and displayed in the exhibition were placed in the Library of Congress. At his death in 1925, Murray bequeathed his personal library of more than 1,400 volumes and pamphlets to the Library as well. The resulting collection of materials, many of them unique, provides a rich catalog of information on African-American life around the turn of the century.

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