Anna Jane Evans Murray

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Anna Jane Evans Murray, 1857-1955

By Vivian Njeri Fisher
Independent Researcher

Anna Jane Evans Murray, African American educator, suffragist, clubwoman, and civic leader was born February 1857 in Oberlin, Ohio to Henry Evans, a free man and Henrietta Leary Evans, who was of French and Croatan Indian ancestry, from North Carolina. She was one of fourteen children and from a young age her mother instilled in her the importance of education. Her mother always reminded her "that education is a pearl of great price by which you will be able to set yourself free in your environment, whatever that may be." As part of an activist family, several of her relatives were involved in abolitionist activities and were known to be active in the Underground Railroad Movement. Her father was one of the famous "Wellington rescuers," known for rescuing John Price, a fugitive slave who had escaped from his master. Murray's uncle, Sheridan Leary, and her cousin John Anthony Copeland, Jr., took part in John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry. Leary died in the fighting and Copeland was captured, tried and executed.

Evans completed school at Oberlin and attended the Ladies Course at the College for one year, leaving in 1876. After college, she moved to Washington, D.C. to begin her career as an educator where she taught music at the Lucretia Mott Elementary School and at Howard University. While teaching at the Mott School, she began to advocate for kindergarten education; after five years of observation she was convinced of the necessity for teachers in this field of early childhood education. On April 2, 1879, Evans married Daniel Murray, assistant librarian at the Library of Congress at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. officiated by the Rev. Francis J. Grimke, abolitionist and civil rights activist. The couple had seven children. Five of the children survived to adulthood, all graduated from college and became pillars of their community while achieving success in their respective fields.

By 1895, Murray remained active in early childhood education, serving as chair of the Education Committee of the National League of Colored Women (NLCW) and a member of the State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Murray actively campaigned for the establishment of free kindergarten classes for African American children in the segregated Washington, D.C. school district. The NLCW established six or seven local kindergarten classes and by October 1896 she managed a NLCW normal school with the objective to train kindergarten teachers. In 1898, she successfully lobbied Congress to secure $12,000 in federal funds to introduce kindergarten classes to the Washington D.C. public school system.

Murray's activism led her to join the NAACP to fight against racism and she participated in suffrage activities. In 1904 she published an article in the Southern Workman, "In Behalf of the Negro Woman," where she proposed that the education of young children should start before the age of six and that nursery schools should be incorporated into the public school system. Working for the race and the importance of early education for African American children was important to Murray. At the National Congress of Mothers Convention, she gave a speech that addressed the issues of home building, education and racism. Murray continued to give speeches on education, race and the race problem. She was nationally known as "one of the best women orators of the present day," as she spoke out against educational injustices of African American children.

In March 1913, the first parade of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was held in Washington, D.C. African American women of the Washington Suffrage Branch participated with women from other states in the suffrage parade to show representation from the African American community. These women included Mrs. Daniel Murray (Anna), Carrie W. Clifford, Mary Church Terrell, Harriett Shadd, Ida B. Wells Barnett (Illinois delegation), and Howard University students.

In August 1922 Murray organized and participated in a ceremony sponsored by the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) honoring Frederick Douglass at his former home in Anacostia.

Murray and her husband, were middle-class race leaders in their beloved city, Washington, D.C. She remained active in organizations that favored racial equality and education throughout her lifetime. She was a member of the YWCA, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the St. Luke's Episcopal Church. She served as vice president of the Public School Association, and officer of the Association for Childhood Education and the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Hot Lunches for School Children. She was cherished as the staunch advocate for kindergarten education and the training of teachers in early elementary education. Throughout her life, her social and political activism along with her speaking engagements kept her engaged until her death. She died on May 5, 1955 at the age of 98 in her home in the District of Columbia.


District of Columbia, Marriage Index, 1830-1921 [database on-line]. Salt Lake City, UT: FamilySearch, 2013.

Moore, Jacqueline M. Leading the Race; the Transformation of the Black Elite in the Nation's Capital, 1880-1920. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1999.

Murray, Anna Evans. "In Behalf of the Negro Woman." The Southern Workman 33 (April 1904): 232-34.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. "Anna Evans Murray", 492-493. In Notable Black American Women, Book II. New York: Gale Research ITP, 1996.

"Suffrage Paraders," The Crisis, vol. 5 no. 6 (April 1913).

Taylor, Elizabeth Dowling. The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2017.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C. National Archives and Records Administration

"Douglass Lauded as Great Leader," The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 August 1922, p. 21.

"Veteran Teacher Dies at 98." The Washington Post & Times Herald (May 7, 1955): 20.



Anna Jane Evans Murray (circa 1876)

Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution—Anacostia Community Museum Archives

Cite as: Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr Repository Loc.: Anacostia Community Museum Archives, MRC-777 1901 Fort Place, SE, Washington, DC 20020 (tel. 202.633.4853, fax 202.287.2422) Consult archivist by appointment


Local number: ACMA PH2003.7063.441


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