From New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Dowling Taylor comes this riveting chronicle of a critical yet overlooked chapter in American history: the inspiring rise and calculated fall of the black elite, from Emancipation through Reconstruction to the Jim Crow Era—embodied in the experiences of an influential figure of the time, academic, entrepreneur, and political activist and black history pioneer Daniel Murray
“Brilliantly researched… Taylor knows how to weave an emotional story of how race and class have long played a role in determining who succeeds and who fails.”—New York Times Book ReviewThis cultural biography tells the enthralling story of the high-achieving black elites who thrived in the nation’s capital during Reconstruction. Daniel Murray (1851-1925), an assistant librarian at the Library of Congress, was a prominent member of this glorious class.
Murray’s life was reflective of those who were well-off at the time. This social circle included African American educators, ministers, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, US senators and representatives, and other government officials. Among the luminaries were Francis and Archibald Grimké, Blanche Bruce, Pinckney Pinchback, Robert and Mary Church Terrell, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. DuBois. The elite were primed to assimilate into the cultural fabric as Americans first and people of color second. Education was a pearl of great pride, and they sent their children to the best schools—Phillips Academy, Cornell, and Harvard. They belonged to exclusive clubs, cultivated genteel manners, owned opulent homes, threw elaborate parties, dressed to the nines, and summered in special enclaves.
The rug was pulled from under all African Americans when they were betrayed by the federal government as the cost of reconciliation with the South. In response to renewed oppression, Murray and others in his class fought back, establishing themselves as inspiring race activists. Elizabeth Dowling Taylor’s powerful work brings to light a dark chapter of race relations that too many have yet to own.