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Murray’s Encyclopedia in the Practice of a Black Public Sphere

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Abstract:

In 1912, Daniel Alexander Payne Murray published a prospectus for his “Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race throughout the World.” Murray proposed a set of six volumes to be sold by subscription, with 600 to 800 pages each, including 1200 illustrations. The volumes would contain the history of Africans of the transatlantic world from antiquity to the twentieth century and tell the story of their lives, accomplishments, and significant cultural events. Murray planned to publish twenty-five thousand biographical sketches of Africans, their descendants, and activist supporters; a bibliography of 6000 books and pamphlets they authored; and a list of 5000 musical compositions they composed. Not until the publication of Africana in 1999, would there appear a work of the African Diaspora approaching the ambitious breadth of materials Murray planned to publish.

In the formation of the African Diaspora, in the public sphere Africans and their descendants were marked with a group identity as slaves and subjugated throughout the European and American colonies. From the start, their print practices sought to alter the imbalance of power operating in their subjugated status. Through print practices, the goal of black print activist was to minimize the differences among them, and magnified the experiences that would unite them in the formation of a black public sphere. Out of this historic commitment, Murray joined others and probably preceded Du Bois, recognizing that Africans and their descendants needed a comprehensive biographical, cultural, and historical examination of their lives. Yet, just how Murray’s project grew out of this nascent black public sphere needs to be understood. This paper investigates: 1) How Murray’s project was informed by the practices of his predecessors. 2) How he proposed through his practices to alter the imbalance which African descendants in America daily faced in their lives. 3) Whether his practices and those of his time help us understand the value of print as agency to African descendants in America during the nadir of American thought about the meaning of their lives?
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Name: Association for the Study of African American Life and History
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p208472_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Benjamin, Michael. "Murray’s Encyclopedia in the Practice of a Black Public Sphere" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Atlanta Hilton, Charlotte, NC, <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p208472_index.html>

APA Citation:

Benjamin, M. "Murray’s Encyclopedia in the Practice of a Black Public Sphere" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Atlanta Hilton, Charlotte, NC <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p208472_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: In 1912, Daniel Alexander Payne Murray published a prospectus for his “Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race throughout the World.” Murray proposed a set of six volumes to be sold by subscription, with 600 to 800 pages each, including 1200 illustrations. The volumes would contain the history of Africans of the transatlantic world from antiquity to the twentieth century and tell the story of their lives, accomplishments, and significant cultural events. Murray planned to publish twenty-five thousand biographical sketches of Africans, their descendants, and activist supporters; a bibliography of 6000 books and pamphlets they authored; and a list of 5000 musical compositions they composed. Not until the publication of Africana in 1999, would there appear a work of the African Diaspora approaching the ambitious breadth of materials Murray planned to publish.

In the formation of the African Diaspora, in the public sphere Africans and their descendants were marked with a group identity as slaves and subjugated throughout the European and American colonies. From the start, their print practices sought to alter the imbalance of power operating in their subjugated status. Through print practices, the goal of black print activist was to minimize the differences among them, and magnified the experiences that would unite them in the formation of a black public sphere. Out of this historic commitment, Murray joined others and probably preceded Du Bois, recognizing that Africans and their descendants needed a comprehensive biographical, cultural, and historical examination of their lives. Yet, just how Murray’s project grew out of this nascent black public sphere needs to be understood. This paper investigates: 1) How Murray’s project was informed by the practices of his predecessors. 2) How he proposed through his practices to alter the imbalance which African descendants in America daily faced in their lives. 3) Whether his practices and those of his time help us understand the value of print as agency to African descendants in America during the nadir of American thought about the meaning of their lives?

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