Carl J. Murphy

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Carl Murphy (January 17, 1889, Baltimore, Maryland – February 25, 1967) was an African-American Journalist, publisher, civil rights leader, and educator.

Biography[edit]

Dr. Carl Murphy was born in Baltimore, Maryland; his parents were John Henry Murphy Sr. and Martha Howard Murphy. He graduated from Howard University in 1911, Harvard University in 1913, and the University of Jena in Berlin in 1913. Murphy served as a professor of German and chairman of the German department at Howard University between 1913 and 1918 It was in that year he joined the staff of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, run by his father John Murphy Sr.

In 1922, upon his father's death, Dr. Murphy assumed control of the paper and in the next four decades solidified the Afro's place as a major African American newspaper. At its peak, the Afro-American published more than a dozen editions in Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; and Newark, New Jersey. Carl Murphy built up the Afro-American from a journal of 14,000 circulations to more than 200,000; employing more than 200 workers.

In addition to his responsibilities to the Afro, Carl Murphy became actively involved with the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. In December 1932, he declared the NAACP's intention to challenge racial segregation at the University of Maryland. By 1935, with the help of NAACP attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP forced open the university's law school, with a strategy that would be used successfully across the Jim Crow South. Perhaps Carl Murphy's most significant single contribution to the Baltimore African American cause came in 1935 when he engineered the election of Lillie Carroll Jackson to the presidency of the local NAACP branch. A perfect complement to Murphy's more subtle leadership style, the straightforward and tireless Jackson remained in the post until 1970.

Under the leadership of Murphy, the Afro newspaper was deeply involved in the organization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom". The paper designated a team of columnists and reporters to aid in the demonstration's promotion, and dispatched another team of journalist to detail its progress. In its 80th anniversary issue, the Afro called Murphy "a man with a purpose." Murphy ran the paper for 45 years. He was a lifelong Mason, a member of President Herbert Hoover's 1930 Commission to Haiti and a member of the Electoral College for the 1960 Presidential election. His impact was felt far beyond his home in Baltimore, Maryland.

As a result of Baltimore's separate but unequal racial order, Murphy and the Afro staff were very concerned with the unsatisfactory education being provided to black children and the complicity of Baltimore's white power structure in this provision. During the 1920s the newspaper intensified its campaign for a first rate school system, in order to provide black children with upward mobility in American society as well as remunerative and fulfilling employment for black educators. These efforts served as the foundation for a stable and prosperous black middle class.

To peers and contemporaries, the diminutive Murphy was a giant. Following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Thurgood Marshall publicly acknowledged a debt of gratitude to Murphy. For his efforts on behalf of civil rights, the NAACP awarded him its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, in 1955. Morgan State University, on whose board Murphy had served as a trustee for decades, named its Fine Arts Center in his honor. Ironically, Carl Murphy died on February 25, 1967, the very day the Maryland General Assembly repealed a 306-year-old state law banning interracial marriage, a battle the Afro publisher and civil rights leader had waged for decades.

The Murphy Family[edit]

By the late 1930s, the Murphy family was prosperous and expanding. Carl Murphy met his future wife, Vashti Turley Murphy, while she was a student in his German class at Howard University; they married June 20, 1916, just before he returned to Baltimore to run the paper. His wife taught school in Washington D.C., and got her B.A. degree from Howard in 1913. In 1911, while studying at Howard, Miss Turley and 21 other young women founded the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

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