News

DelVal faculty member helps place new Toni Morrison Society bench

Courtesy: Toni Morrison Society. Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925), the first African-American Assistant Librarian of Congress.

Apr 21, 2017

A Delaware Valley University faculty member is helping The Toni Morrison Society place a new bench at the Library of Congress in memory of the first African-American Assistant Librarian of Congress. The bench will be placed on April 28, at 3:00 p.m. The placement ceremony is open to invited guests and media only. 

Dr. Craig Stutman, a DelVal assistant professor of history and policy studies, works with the Toni Morrison Society's Bench by the Road Project to tell stories from African-American history. Dr. Stutman is the co-chair of the Bench by the Road Project, a public history initiative that places benches at sites of African-American historical significance. 

“For me, as a historian, it’s meaningful and critical work,” said Dr. Stutman. “I’m really passionate about sharing these stories.” 

The new bench is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925). Murray, the first African-American Assistant Librarian of Congress, profoundly influenced the field of black historical record keeping at a time when African-centered books, objects, and artifacts were either ignored, destroyed, or kept in private homes.

During his tenure at the Library of Congress, Murray developed an interest in cataloging what he referred to as “outstanding persons of African descent,” and thus began to collect materials by and about these individuals with a plan to publish this information in an encyclopedia. 

In 1900, at The Paris Exposition Universelle, Murray organized and exhibited over 500 books on the African diaspora along with a corresponding pamphlet entitled the “Library of Congress Collection of Books by Colored Authors." Murray was responsible for constructing the Fair's “Negro Exhibit,” along with Thomas Calloway and W.E.B. Du Bois. This bench is co-sponsored by the Toni Morrison Society and the Daniel AP Murray African-American Cultural Association of the Library of Congress.

While Dr. Stutman has co-chaired the Toni Morrison Society’s Bench by the Road Project for the past three years, he has worked on this project for a total of nine years.  He has been involved in the process of site review, research, plaque-writing, and the planning of these memorial events alongside of a variety of community groups and institutions. 

The Bench by the Road Project has been featured by publications including: The New York TimesUSA Today, and Philly.com

To learn more about The Toni Morrison Society, please visit: tonimorrisonsociety.org