Washington Press Club Foundation
Frances L. Murphy:
Interview #2 (pp. 39-67)
April 25, 1992 in Washington, D.C.
Fern Ingersoll, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Ingersoll: Could you explain to me, before we go a little further, the relationship between the Afro-Americans of the various cities? Was there a national edition, at least at one time, and then the various city editions? What was the relationship, and did it change through the years?

Murphy: I think in the early beginning we had just the Afro-American.

Ingersoll: That was Baltimore, right?

Murphy: That was in Baltimore, where it was founded. From the early beginnings, the Afro was sold on the streets in Washington. There were certain people who would come and pick up the paper and take it to Washington. Then they started what was called a Washington bureau. Many newspapers have Washington bureaus. They started a Washington bureau. We had our own press, and so what they would do would be to change the front page on the Afro. Instead of being the Afro-American, it would be the Washington Afro-American.

Then they purchased the Richmond [Va.] Planet and opened a Richmond office. They opened a Philadelphia office and a New Jersey office. Each time they opened a new office, they would take the basic paper, which we would call at that time "Nine Star."

Ingersoll: What was that?

Murphy: Nine Star edition. That was the (national) paper that they would print on—I think it was Sunday night, and that was what in those days was the basic Afro-American. This is the one that if you lived in California you would receive. The one if you lived in the Midwest, you asked for a subscription, you would get the national Afro-American.

From that Afro-American, we did basically what many newspapers do today. The body of the newspaper would stay about the same, and they would change a couple of pages in the newspaper and make them local pages and change the front page, which means you've got a wealth of national news in your home newspaper, and then you've got your local news, too.

I can remember memos where my father would say to an editor, "You can have so many pages this week for your local news." But we had a certain number of pages—say, the Supreme Court decision—that those pages would remain what we call intact, and you were supposed to pick those pages up. Those were "must" pages for every single edition, which means it ran across the chain. But you, as an editor in, say, Richmond, would have control over your front page and your second page and your social page. You'd have one sports local page, because Sam Lacy wrote the national sports. We had an international page, which fairly well remained the same. The church page always was local. Your "Kids Talk" page was local, because, of course, you had to relate to the school children in your area. And that's the way it went.

Ingersoll: Does the Afro still operate that way today?

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Murphy: Yes, but we have more local pages in the first section. And no—each editor decides on what "intact" pages he/she will pick up from week to week.

Ingersoll: How old do you think you were when you started to read the Afro?

Murphy: To actually read, sit down with the newspaper and read, that would be very hard to say.

Ingersoll: Not the exact age, perhaps, but just the—

Murphy: I have no idea. See, you have to remember that in our household we lived and breathed the Afro. And we even do that today. We'll get together today, and it doesn't take, as our children say, more than five minutes before we're talking about the Afro. I don't remember any time that there wasn't something but where the Afro would eventually come up, especially if the family was gathered. My father, as many of us would say, would "bring the Afro home." There were certain things in it that he was interested in discussing, and so you had to read that news story.

Ingersoll: Was it always a weekly?

Murphy: Biweekly. But you have to remember that we say that, but all the newspapers were printed in Baltimore, so therefore there was a paper going through the plant almost every single day. They began early in the week with the national, and then they would get right into those that went down to the South. Then they had a North Carolina edition and a South Carolina edition, a Philadelphia edition. Then I don't remember. They put in New Jersey ahead of the rest of them. Then they put out the first paper in Baltimore on a Tuesday. At the same time they put out the Baltimore one, they would put out Washington—Tuesday. And then on Wednesday, they were printing the other newspapers going to the other cities, right back to Thursday. Then Thursday for Washington, and then again Baltimore for Friday. So there was a newspaper being printed on that press every single day of the week.

Ingersoll: To what extent do you think your own sense of identity was molded by being a member of the Murphy family, the publishers of the Afro-American, as you were growing up? Did you think of yourself mainly as a Murphy daughter, a Murphy sister, of the Afro-American family?

Murphy: I really don't think you do that as children. You take a lot for granted. You don't look around so much as a child and say, "Well, gee, I'm a Murphy," and pay too much attention to that. You don't get that sense of identity until you get maybe about thirty or forty years of age, when you begin to really branch out. Certainly, you went to college and so forth, but you were busy in those days and you were more self-contained, thinking about what you're going to do yourself.

But I think when you begin to send your own children abroad, that's when you begin to pay attention to family ties. You begin to hear your father saying the importance of names and so forth, and you understand them then. But when you were going [out into the world], you were saying, "Oh, gee. I don't see why I have to be a Murphy. Let's don't tell anybody." Those are the early days where you say, "I'm going to do it on my own." And then I think somewhere along the line, after about twenty-five, thirty, you begin to understand the importance of what we call connections, family ties and so forth, and then they become valuable to you. Up to that point, you have said to yourself, "I can make it. I don't need these appendages," as we would say.

Ingersoll: There was a very interesting article by Joan Woods in the Academy Journal which was with your papers and scrapbooks, and she said in that article that your love of the Afro-American

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business was developed as you listened to dinner table conversations between your father and such black leaders as W.E.B. DuBois and Roy Wilkins and Mary McLeod Bethune. Could you talk a little bit about that kind of influence on your life?

Murphy: From an early child, [I remember] my father had breakfast meetings. They're morning people, and so therefore he would invite people to breakfast to sit down and talk. He felt that it was best to bring them away from the office, because then he didn't have any interruption. From my early times, therefore, I can remember people coming in and out of the house in Morgan Park and sitting down and talking. It didn't make any difference, whatever was going on, my father would have a gathering of NAACP people, politicians, people who were running for office or wanted to run for office. They would come to see Mr. Carl to get his support, to ask what to do, how to do it, and so forth, and I was privy to many of those conversations.

In later years, I remember him bringing them into the office. In fact, we have some pictures of him sitting down with politicians and so forth. As I said before, I remember that Mrs. Bethune and my dad went abroad together as a representative of the president. Robert Moton, anyone you can think of who was prominent in those days, Adam Clayton Powell, these are the people who came in and out of Morgan Park—Oscar DePriest, one of the early black congressmen. It was just one of the things that people soon picked up across the nation, that when you get into Baltimore, go by and see Carl Murphy. [Laughter.]

Ingersoll: Do you have any memories of any of these particular people, like W.E.B. DuBois or Roy Wilkins or Mary McLeod Bethune or any of the others that you mentioned? Does anything stand out in your mind about any of them?

Murphy: I think with Dr. DuBois I remember the walks, as I've said, around the circle in Morgan Park and listening to their discussions about how they were going to handle some of the civil rights cases and how they were going to raise the money. My father was head of the Legal Defense Fund, and it was his job to get the money for the cases that were going to the courts. This is one of the things that Thurgood Marshall has talked about in recent years, the fact that if it wasn't for Carl Murphy, there wouldn't have been any money to file those cases in the first place, that anytime you came to him, Thurgood would say that Dad would find a way to get the money. It's extremely expensive to file a case and to get the interrogations and so forth and do the things, and they made it expensive, so somewhere that money had to be raised. He worked with the early NAACP leaders, and you would hear him on the phone talking to them, and they would come by the house and they would talk about how they were going to raise this money.

When, during the sixties, the young college students were jailed down South, the phone calls came to our house in Morgan Park, "Can you send us some money right away?" I don't know whether he kept the money at home or what, but I do know he had a safe down in the basement of the home, and I do know the money went out to post the bail for the various people. I do know that there were calls from Martin Luther King [Jr.], and I do know that he wrote him a letter (I think it's in his papers upstairs) thanking him for his support.

Ingersoll: Would you consider the Afro, then, a crusading press?

Murphy: "Crusading" is a nice word. "Necessary," now, I always think is a better word. Without the black press, many of the things that have happened would never have happened. We say that there's a record of almost everything that went on because of the black press. And an accurate record. There's one thing of having a record, that somebody writes a news story. A young reporter will write a story and doesn't know what he's talking about. There's another one to be right there on the scene and be able to record accurately just what went on.

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Ingersoll: How about yourself? Would you consider yourself a crusader?

Murphy: "Crusade" is an interesting word. Not necessarily. I guess, first of all, I consider myself a professional reporter. It may appear to be to crusade, but my main objective is to make sure it's right. Many times that is crusading, because what you're doing is going against the white press, that has twisted what's going on.

We had a laugh today, at just coming back from the trip up to Johnstown to bring home [former Washington, D.C. Mayor] Marion Barry back to the city, and read the stories. We said, "We're sorry, but some of them obviously didn't go where we went." And so when we came out, we wanted to try to "straighten the record," as we say. Yes, there were a lot of different things, but they write it as if this was the majority opinion of the people who did so and so, which is not necessarily true.

Ingersoll: Would you bring home with you a copy of the Afro in which the Barry story is written? It might be interesting to put that in the appendix, maybe next to one of the other ones.*

Murphy: We're going to do something that they can't refute. We're going to do a picture story, and so therefore we're going to show people what happened and let the pictures be the words.

Ingersoll: What a good idea.

Murphy: We've already decided to do that. They talked in the white press about the elderly people who were there and that most of them were elderly, that most of them want him to run for office. And so we're going to do just the opposite. We're going to put it in pictures and put it into the paper so people can actually see what happened.

Ingersoll: What a good idea. Now, Ferrar, the man who wrote the history of the Afro-American, says that the Afro fought through the years for having black teachers in black schools, for having them have equal pay with white teachers and so forth, and against the high school principal, Mason Hawkins. Were you aware of this kind of thing as you were going through the schools, and did it have any effect on you in your relationship to other students and that kind of thing, do you think?

Murphy: I think you have to understand that in Baltimore there were two separate school systems. One was the colored schools; the other was the white schools. You had a superintendent of the colored schools who, in today's world, would have been an assistant superintendent under a white superintendent. The Afro would complain bitterly about having hand-me-down books. There was nothing worse than to sit in a high school classroom and open a textbook and see that it had been marked up by the white kids at Western High School and Eastern High School, which in those days were white schools. We would get the paper that had been sitting in the white schools' warehouse which had turned yellow. We would get stubs of pencils instead of pencils.

And so the Afro would talk about these things, much to Dr. Mason Hawkins' chagrin, who would say, "Well, just take it, you know, and go ahead and use it. Don't complain about what you have." The Afro said, "We want it separate, and if it's going to be separate, make it equal."

* The videotape of the final interview with Frances L. Murphy contains shots of this picture story.

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And it was separate, but equal, in those days which we were fighting for; not integrated schools, but give us what our taxes have paid for. So you have to understand what was going on at the time.

When I came along, I don't remember having a white teacher, but I assume there must have been some in the earlier days in the schools. But I don't think I ever had one until I got away to school. I remember when I came along, the superintendent of schools was Dr. Francis Wood, and it's his son that I married, James Wood. I do remember that we were in class together in high school. Our parents evidently didn't get along too well, but "Biddy," as he was called, and I were friends. I can remember us joking about the fact that his father and my father didn't get along too well. They didn't see eye to eye on things. Yet in my father's papers in his estate, I saw where he had loaned Dr. Wood money, where Dr. Wood had written him a letter of what he hoped for the schools, what new schools he would like to see built and how he would like to change the curriculum.

So we, as children, might have had the wrong slant of what was going on, because his letter was so detailed, almost as a friend writing to a friend. So maybe what we saw on the surface was put there for a reason; I don't know. But there are letters in my father's papers from Dr. Wood to him outlining some of his plans on how he felt about the schools.

Ingersoll: That's very interesting. Another angle on that is, Ferrar says that although your father in some ways was iron-fisted in the way he ran the Afro—and you confirmed that the last time we talked—still, he was a very, Ferrar says, liberal man, and even he permitted a variety of opinions on the newspaper. He would let editorial columnists, such as Ralph Matthews and Clarence Mitchell, express opinions that might have been quite different from his own. I was going to ask you, in connection with that, if that's the way you saw him on the paper and also if that's the way he was with his girls—or rather his "boys," as we've said—at home, if he would encourage you to have a variety of opinions.

Murphy: I think one of the things I must have said earlier was that he liked to listen to you. He would listen and he'd ask you what you thought, and then if it was adverse to what he thought, he would try to convince you. And if in the end you held your ground, that was it. He said, "All right. Let's see if it works." It was usually just that simple.

Ingersoll: And your feeling is it was that way on the paper and at home pretty consistently?

Murphy: Sam Lacy, the sports editor at the Afro, who is, I guess, the dean of sports writers here in the United States today, black and white, Sam must be eighty-some years old, and Sam will say to you that he would go in to see Mr. Carl, and he'd come out and say, "I won that one," or, "He got me today," and so you knew they had been in there arguing about something. But Sam would say sometimes he won and sometimes he lost, so Mr. Carl had to be listening to both sides.

Ingersoll: Another thing that Ferrar said about your father was that he, Ferrar, thinks that your father must have been quite frustrated through the years because he had to point out the same problems over and over again, that there should be a black school board member, that there should be equal pay for teachers of all races. As you were growing up, do you think you were aware of this frustration; do you think it was there?

Murphy: I can imagine that from time to time he may have felt discouraged, but he had a good constitution, and he had something that so many people didn't have—a garden, and my mother's famous phrase, "Go out, now dig." And he would go out in that garden and dig and come in renewed. I think I said earlier somewhere that he would not let anyone disturb him on Saturday, because Saturday morning was his time in the yard. I think he worked off many of his

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frustrations, and I think he handed that down to all of us, because I love to go out and just dig in the yard.

Ingersoll: Another interesting thing, I think—and this would have been when you were quite young—according to Ferrar, the Afro crusaded for courteous service and meaningful jobs in downtown department stores. That was an issue in 1928, I think. Do you think this affected in any way the way you and your family might have been treated in department stores?

Murphy: My Aunt Sadie was very fair. She was married to my Uncle Arnett. She would go shopping downtown, but she didn't necessarily take her girls with her, because, as we'd say in those days, she could "pass." My parents did not shop downtown; we went away to shop. We shopped in Philadelphia or New York. To this day, if May Company would still exist, I would not have gone into May Company. There was a store called Stewart's. I would not have gone into Stewart's, here even today, because of that in the earlier days. Most of the stores that discriminated are now gone, and those that still are existing are the ones that you could shop in.

Ingersoll: Apparently at one point the Afro advocated boycotting stores that didn't treat blacks well. Maybe they would allow them to be there, but they didn't really give them very decent treatment.

Murphy: Hecht Company.

Ingersoll: Were you involved in any of those boycotts?

Murphy: I wish I could remember the year, but I do not, but Hecht Company, we urged everyone to send back their charge accounts, and people mailed them back en masse. And, boy, Hecht Company dropped its barriers so fast. That was one of the early ones. Counter fights, fights to sit down and eat at the counter. Arundel Ice Cream, I can remember, that was an early one. It opened up very fast.

We shopped, as I say, away, or we shopped at the small boutiques, as we call them today. There was a young woman who owned a boutique down the street from us, and she would go shopping for us in our later days. No, I don't guess I remember too much of the rest of the downtown stores.

Ingersoll: That's interesting. Then in the 1930s, the Afro worked closely with the NAACP to register voters. Did any of your family members work on that? You would have just been a little girl, but would you ever have tagged along on any of that kind of thing?

Murphy: Let's say that we've been registering voters all our lives, and I'm sure if there was a campaign going, we must have worked on it—wearing the buttons, sitting out there getting people to register to vote. Yes, I'm sure. That was a big thing that the NAACP and Dad and all that group—all of their meetings were big meetings where they were getting people to register to vote, and once you registered to vote, arranging the cars to go pick up the people to take them to the polls and so forth, going along with people who may have been afraid to go for one reason or the other. Those were huge campaigns. They weren't small campaigns. They involved a lot of people, where they paraded down to the polls and paraded down to the Board of Elections to get registered and so forth. They weren't small affairs; they were huge rallies and so forth. And they were extremely necessary.

Ingersoll: Do you remember being a part of those yourself, ever?

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Murphy: Not as a young person. As I got older, up in high school and in college, I remember participating. But I don't remember as a very young person.

Ingersoll: When you were growing up, did you ever have the feeling that the Afro could change things, either in the black community or in the wider community?

Murphy: We were extremely close-knit. You're asking me whether the Afro could change things. My impression was that it did change things, as a youngster, and that because of the Afro, things changed. Even in school, you noticed that the teachers treated you just a little bit differently, because they knew that you were taking things home that might appear in the paper. If they wanted something printed in the paper, they made sure you knew it. So I can say from the earliest times it was obvious, in my mind, that the Afro was very influential, that people wanted to change things, and those who were really ready for a good fight used the Afro and used all of us to carry the message.

Ingersoll: That's very interesting. A little later in the thirties, '37, Baltimore dropped its color bar by hiring a Mrs. Violet Hill Whyte as the first black policewoman. Do you remember that? Did that make any impression on you as, I guess, about a fifteen-year-old?

Murphy: Not until I came back to work. She was Sergeant Violet Hill Whyte when I was a police reporter, and she was very helpful to me in getting news stories and steering me in the right direction of where to find things. I was assigned to police stations and so forth as a cub reporter, and I'd walk in, and if Sergeant Whyte was around, I knew I would get my story right away, because she'd tell them, "Give her that," or "Give her this." She sort of paved the way for many of us black reporters who had to come in behind the prejudiced white reporters who were so used to being there by themselves that they really weren't too good at helping like they try to do today. But I remember her. I remember working with her. She had a daughter, also, and I'm trying to remember was she in my class at high school. I'm not sure, but I know she had a daughter.

Ingersoll: Before we go on, and I do want to get on to those days when you were a reporter at the police court and other things, but just a few things from your scrapbooks from that 1935-'37 period at Dunbar Junior High. You wrote for the Dunbar Broadcast. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Murphy: Dunbar Broadcast. In junior high and senior high, we worked on the school newspaper. It was a classroom project. We were assigned stories to write or we would volunteer to write them. It was typical of a high school or junior high school newspaper. You enjoyed it; you were a member of the staff. It wasn't anything you had to do, you just did it, because it was another club and all my friends were in it.

Ingersoll: I noticed that in an issue of June 14, 1937, someone wrote that, "Frances Louise Murphy leads the class in scholarship." Was being a top scholar an important thing to you as a young girl?

Murphy: No. School came fairly easy for me. Being the valedictorian certainly was an honor and I'm sure I must have enjoyed it, as I did most things, but in my memory it doesn't stand out as being anything unusual. I have met the other two persons who were behind me, one I remember very vividly, Loretta Johnson, and we've always laughed about it, we must have been very closely together in grade point, and she's jokingly said many a day that she should have gotten it. We remained friends all through the years. But I don't recall it as being anything really great, except that I must have given the speech at commencement, as the valedictorian was supposed to do, a little extra work.

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Ingersoll: Then in that Dunbar Broadcast it said that they were "glad to see our president back," meaning you. So you must have been president of a class, maybe your senior class, at Dunbar. Do you remember that election?

Murphy: I wish I could tell you I did.

Ingersoll: Then at Douglass High School, where you went between '37 and '40, I noticed that there was something in the yearbook that they called their "survey deluxe," in which one of your admirable traits was [seen to be] your executive ability. Is that something you think you've maybe carried through the years from early on?

Murphy: That's interesting. I'm not sure, but I do know they elected me "Miss Douglass" and that I worked in various organizations in various capacities in school. You see, I enjoyed working in organizations and knowing I would go into an organization and be elected to an office. I'm extremely organized, and I guess maybe that's why.

Ingersoll: That's interesting. I noticed there that your ambition was at that time to be a journalist. I thought that was interesting.

Murphy: Yes. And I'm sure that was my ambition, and I'm sure that because it was going to be printed, I was going to please my father and mother.

Ingersoll: Then from the University of Wisconsin days, there was something I wanted to ask you about. I noticed in one of the notes from '43-'44, which I guess would have been your senior year, that you studied commerce. Do you have any recollection of that?

Murphy: That was a business course. My father said that we needed a business course in order to learn how to handle the books and so forth at the Afro, so commerce was a business course, what we would call business today. I'm sure we took statistics and things like that, and all this was in the commerce course at the time. My only reason for taking that course would have been that he thought it was going to help us in business.

Ingersoll: But as I saw in the Badger, journalism was your major there, wasn't it?

Murphy: Journalism, yes.

Ingersoll: When you were at Wisconsin, did you have any feeling that the goal of objectivity was very important at that time?

Murphy: What do you mean?

Ingersoll: To be completely objective about a story. The reason I ask you that, Ethel Payne said, "I was never objective. I always had a reason for what I was writing and a thrust to what I was writing." I asked Lucile Bluford about that on the Call, and I ask you for the same reason.*

* Ethel Payne wrote for the Chicago Defender.

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Murphy: I guess we can say objectivity and accuracy are all in one. At Wisconsin, I ran against people who had never met a black person before. The way they felt toward black people was, to me, just something way out in left field. I used to just sit and look at them in absolute amazement about what they thought black people were like, and my main thrust was trying to set the record straight.

You were talking about objectivity, and I think my main thing in life has been to try to make sure that what you say is a fair picture of what people see. Maybe on some things you might be subjective because you write from experience, so you would have to be subjective in some things. But one of the things that Wisconsin really taught me was that there's a whole lot of people in this world who have a one-sided education. If I didn't learn anything else at Wisconsin, that's what I learned. They just don't know about the world at all. They are the real ugly Americans, because they just don't know.

Ingersoll: How much did the faculty at Wisconsin know about the black press and your family's position or place in the black press?

Murphy: At Wisconsin, remember, I followed two sisters, so by the time I got there, they had learned a whole lot. There wasn't a professor that I had who had not read the Afro, who did not understand the mission of the Afro and would not discuss it in class at one time or the other, which means that the paper was sent to us and I would take it to class, and it was taken to class like other students there whose parents owned newspapers. Many of the people in my class, their parents owned newspapers, and so we would take our papers to class and share them with other students. So I was very fortunate in that fact that I had professors who had taught my other two sisters. I also had professors, some who were extremely nice and some who just couldn't accept the fact that we were there. They softened, I assume, through the years, and by the time I got there, they were better than others.

Those were not good years, particularly, for me. They were just, as you say, years that you bide your time and say they'll soon be over. I can imagine saying to myself every summer, "Well, one more summer to go before I can come home and get away from this." But they were years that you had to tolerate, because that's what your parents wanted for you.

Ingersoll: And what your parents wanted for you—

Murphy: Was a degree in journalism.

Ingersoll: And that was important to you?

Murphy: Yes. The fact that that's what they wanted and the fact that I was willing to go along with this program. This was the program that they had mapped out for their girls, and I went along with the program, as I did most times when they had convinced me that this was what was important and what they thought was right.

Ingersoll: Did any of your other sisters rebel?

Murphy: Yes. One sister rebelled, Vashti.

Ingersoll: Oh, Vashti was the fighter, wasn't she?

Murphy: She was the fighter, and she rebelled. She rebelled about going to a school of journalism; she wanted to go to Howard University. She went to Howard University. She was not

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happy there. She came back home after a year or so at Howard and worked on the paper and went on to become a WAC during the war. I almost went with her—almost. She went down to the recruiting station, and I started down with her and turned around and came back, and almost would have gone with her, but didn't go. And so she went overseas with the WACs [Women's Army Corps].

She wrote news stories for the Afro when she was overseas and almost got disciplined for it. But she was the one who wrote back about the prejudice in the army and let the Afro run those stories, which were in the early days when we were fighting for integration in the armed forces. People said it didn't exist and colored troops were happy and so forth, and she was writing back and saying, "It's terrible up here." She was in France.

Ingersoll: She almost got disciplined for that?

Murphy: Oh, yes, because they didn't know where the stories were coming from, see, and they assumed because they were appearing in the Afro, they had to be either coming from her or some of the other people who had gone from the Afro to the armed forces. But she was writing about the women, so it would have had to have been her. But she was the one who wrote about that.

Ingersoll: What saved her?

Murphy: I think somewhere along the line that maybe my father intervened with the person who was head of the public relations then in the Defense Department; his name was Evans. Somewhere along the line she came on back and came on out of the WACs and went to work at the Afro.

Ingersoll: Would it have been during your early period of working on the Afro, after finishing Wisconsin, that you almost joined the WACs yourself?

Murphy: No. This would have been the summer of my senior year at Wisconsin, because the war—I wish I could remember these dates.

Ingersoll: If you graduated in '44, that may have been the summer of '43, then, wouldn't it?

Murphy: Something along that line is my memory of it. I'm not sure whether it was '43, but anyhow, the war was still going on.

Ingersoll: Can you tell me a little bit more about that experience and how you thought it through, thinking you might join the WACs?

Murphy: Many people were very patriotic, as you know, during the war. The fighting was going on, they were calling for volunteers to relieve the men so they could go to the front, and as a young person, you got caught up in the wave of emotion and so forth. I can imagine that Vashti could persuade you to do some things, and then you sit and think about it. Knowing me, I imagine I must have talked it over with my mother, and in the end I can hear her say, "Do what you think is best." By that time, she had convinced you that what was best was to stay and not go. With my sister Vashti, it would have convinced her to go and do what she wanted to do. So that would have been typical. I imagine we must have talked it over, not necessarily with my father. With my mother, I'm sure we must have talked it over, and I'm sure in a very, very calm way she gave us her side of the story and what she saw. Her final words would normally be, "Where do you want to be five years from now? Think about that, and then do what you think is best." From those words, I must have made my decision of what I wanted to do and decided not to go.

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Ingersoll: But you got as far as going down to the recruiter?

Murphy: I think I started as far as going with her down to the recruiter and then turned around and said, "No, I don't think so."

Ingersoll: That's interesting. I noticed in the issue of the Badger, the University of Wisconsin yearbook, that the International Club was one of your identifications. Was that important to you at Wisconsin?

Murphy: The International Club. We were a group of rebels who were fighting for what we felt were the rights of black people. We had in that group international students, as well as American students. That's why it was called the International Club. I don't remember too much else about it, except that I'm sure it got us into trouble a couple of times. But other than that, I don't recall what we actually did. I know it was made up of students from all around the world.

Ingersoll: Was the international interest there, do you think, for you, as a college-age person? I ask that because you did a number of things internationally later on.

Murphy: I wish I could relate that to something. My feeling is that Wisconsin was such a complete blank for me, as far as I was concerned. That was just something I may have done to relieve the tensions and to get together with the people who were interested in some of the things I was interested in. It obviously didn't make very much of an impression on me, because I really don't remember too much about it.

[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]

Ingersoll: When you were growing up, which ones of the Murphys were writers for the paper? I know a number of your father's brothers were involved in various parts of putting out the paper, but which ones were really involved in writing?

Murphy: Do you mean my sisters?

Ingersoll: Well, I was thinking of your uncles and aunts, as well as your sisters.

Murphy: When I was growing up, Aunt Frank would write, but she was interested in the "clean block" campaigns and things like that. I don't recall that Aunt Sue was still writing her things for the paper. She lived in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Her name was Sue Purdy. My cousin, Elizabeth Oliver, must have been an early writer for the paper. She was older than I was. Clementine Murphy Knox was on the copy desk. Of course, my sister Bettye was there at the paper ahead of me, and Ida was there ahead of me. Ida was in the advertising department, though. She didn't start writing until later.

Of my father's brothers and sisters, Uncle George did a lot of public relations, whether he did any writing or not. He was the one who went on and did a lot of speeches, and he was out in the community. He was the principal. Edna Rawlings, my cousin, was the secretary to my grandfather. Uncle John Murphy and Uncle Arnett would bring material in, and I'm sure they did some writing which Dad rewrote, because they weren't necessarily writers. My Uncle John was in one of the fraternal orders, and I'm sure that a lot of the fraternal news that appeared in the paper at that time had to have originally come from Uncle John. Uncle Arnett was always after getting news in about his advertisers, so I'm sure that many of those stories originally came from him, which Dad, I'm sure, rewrote.

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Ingersoll: I was going to ask if any of these people had any particular influence over you. Did you particularly admire any of them as writers?

Murphy: Outside of my two sisters, and my sister Carlita, who, of course, married early and went on to Buffalo, I think Elizabeth Oliver would be the only other one that would always write. No matter where she was, whether she was in Baltimore or someplace else, she was always writing something.

Of course, the greatest influence was my father, whose editorials and whose news stories we would read all of the time. He wrote under the name of John Jasper, and so therefore many of his articles I would read. Of course, I knew he wrote the editorials. If he didn't write the editorials, he wrote, as we called it, the outline for the editorial, and he would give it to William N. Jones, and in later years, Mr. Gibson or Cliff MacKay and tell them this is what he wanted.

Ingersoll: That's interesting that your father wrote under the name of John Jasper, and that was another question I was going to ask you. I think I read in Ferrar that Arnett Murphy wrote under a nom de plume of the "Sportsman," and I was going to ask you if any of the other family members did that. Did you ever write under any nom de plume for the paper?

Murphy: I do now. I write the gossip column under the name of Muriel.

Ingersoll: Oh, really?

Murphy: Yes. But, no, only in recent years did I.

Ingersoll: Why do you think your father used John Jasper?

Murphy: I really never thought about it. I think when you write so much that sometimes you prefer that you write under another name to see what reaction people get. People get so used to reading your material and they'll say something to you about it, you're wondering if you write under another name, will you get that same kind of reaction. I don't know why he did, but I have a feeling that he might have done it to see if he could get a different kind of reaction. Someone may be more inclined to come to him and say, "That article by John Jasper I don't like," rather than say, "The article by Carl Murphy I don't like." So that may have been a reason for it; I don't know.

Ingersoll: While we're talking about that, just to jump into the present, why do you write the gossip column under the name of Muriel?

Murphy: For the very same reason, that people would call in and tell Muriel a whole lot of things they wouldn't tell me. [Laughter.] They call in to the switchboard and say, "Tell Muriel so and so and so and so."

"Can I have your name?"

"No." [Laughter] But gossip is gossip, and people like gossip columns.

Ingersoll: And you think if it were written under Frances Murphy's name, that telephone call wouldn't even have come?

Murphy: Oh, no, no, no. And especially some of the people whose voices I can recognize.

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Ingersoll: Then when you finished college, did you ever consider doing anything else besides joining the Afro? You mentioned maybe joining the WACs during that summer before your senior year. Was there anything else that came to your mind?

Murphy: I was just so happy to get out Wisconsin and come home and do what I wanted to do, which was work at the Afro, that I never considered anything else. At that point, I was just delighted to be finished. And when I graduated, my dad sent us on a trip to the coast, on a train trip across to California, up to the state of Washington, Seattle, Washington, down through San Francisco and Los Angeles, and then back to Baltimore. So that was just a wonderful graduation gift.

Ingersoll: Yes. A real eye-opener, wasn't it?

Murphy: Yes, it was a tremendous eye-opener. He knew how I felt about Wisconsin; I'm sure he did. And for a job well done, he sent me on this trip. My mother went and my sister Carlita. We had a wonderful trip across the country and back, and when I got back, it was time to go to work.

Ingersoll: Did you stop at places along the way?

Murphy: We stopped everyplace. Stopped off in Colorado. Mama knew people across the country. Remember now, she's a co-founder of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Ingersoll: Oh, yes. And there were Deltas all over.

Murphy: And Deltas all over the country. As soon as we'd get into a town, there would be a tea here or something here to meet Mrs. Vashti Murphy. And so it was just a lovely, lovely graduation trip. Then we got back, as I said, and it was time for work.

Ingersoll: Did you ever consider working for any other black press, either at that point or through the years?

Murphy: No. I couldn't conceive of it. I can't conceive of it now.

Ingersoll: Were there any feelings that you had that might have drawn you away from working on the family paper?

Murphy: You know, I love to teach. Of course, that drew me, and I would teach. I enjoy teaching. I do it even in the office. There's nothing I like better than having a group of school children come in. So I did teach for a while.

Ingersoll: That was later through the years.

Murphy: Yes.

Ingersoll: Did you at all consider teaching at this early stage?

Murphy: No. Otherwise, I would have taken education. I would have had to go back and take education.

Ingersoll: From '44 to '51, your résumé says there were a variety of things you did as a reporter—magazine editor, picture editor, and city editor—for the Baltimore Afro-American. Did you do all of those things at one time, or were they progressive jobs?

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Murphy: They were progressive jobs. I was obviously being trained to take over one of the branch offices, and so at that time you had to learn to do all those different things. We did them differently then than we do today, of course. Everything's so automatic today. But in those days you had to learn how to size a picture, you had to learn how to lay out a page. They didn't have computers, no pagination, as we have now. So these were basic skills you had to have before you even went away to a branch office and have your own newspaper. You had to learn how to get a story and make sure it fit on a dummy and do a dummy sheet so that the compositor would be able to follow your sheet like a map, where to put a story and so forth. So on each job that I had at the office, it was training me in a different skill.

Ingersoll: Was this, do you think, your father's plan that you would learn all of these various things?

Murphy: I started off at the office in what we called, as I said, the library, or morgue, learning how to file, getting a real good idea of what historical documents were in the library and so forth, and I moved right on up, reporter on up to city editor, and then off to a branch office.

Ingersoll: How interesting. Who were your mentors? Who trained you in these things when you were there?

Murphy: Of course my father. Then, of course, my sister Bettye. I got a lot of help from William N. Jones, who was one of the early editors. In my mind, Cliff MacKay was very good; Bill Gibson. There were a lot of people who took me under their wing, and it was very, very helpful to me as a young person growing up. Sam Lacy, always very kind, always someone you could go sit with, and Sam would say, "You know, if you turn that sentence just around a bit," or, "If you'll do this just a bit, if you'll go back and ask him so and so, you'll get a better story. The story is good, but you missed the point," or something. Those are the kinds of comments that were so good for you in the early days, and good now. When I get a letter from Sam now, I open it real fast to see what Sam has to say. [Laughter.]

Ingersoll: Do you think there was any feeling at all among the men—and they're mainly men whom you have mentioned here—against a woman coming in and doing these things?

Murphy: I was very fortunate to be the last of the Murphy girls to come into the plant. I think I had been around these people all of my life. They had seen me come in and out of the office. I knew their children, I played with their children, and they just took me under their wing as they would have their own child. We were family. My father treated them as family, and they treated me as family. I never felt any resentment.

Ingersoll: Of course, your situation was a little bit different from some other people's, but I wanted to compare your experience with that of Lucile Bluford, who said she thinks that women working on the black press were much more accepted much earlier than white women working on the mainstream presses.

Murphy: Lucile might be really telling the truth because we were treated more as friends and comrades and people who could help, who were in the same fight together. See, we had a fight going on for survival. The people in the white press didn't have that kind of fight for survival; they were just out there doing a job. Ours was more than a job. We were depended upon by people who said, "You've got to help me." Most of our news stories were based on trying to help someone get something or try to survive. We didn't have time to fight among ourselves.

Ingersoll: Were you paid in that job at the Afro?

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Murphy: Oh, yes. Not much.

Ingersoll: How did the pay of women compare to the pay of men at that point?

Murphy: To be truthful, I don't know. Thinking back, I think my husband and I both worked at the Afro at the same time. My memory is that he got more than I did, and my memory also is that I may have complained to my father, who equaled the salaries. I don't know about other people, because things were very hush-hush, and I didn't learn about salaries and so forth until I began really handling my father's papers in his later years when I handled his checkbooks and signed most of his checks and so forth, then I got a better understanding. But in my early days, I had no understanding of it.

Ingersoll: Do you think you were assigned certain stories in those days because you were a woman or not assigned to certain other stories because you were a woman?

Murphy: I think I was assigned some of the harsh stories because I was a woman and he wanted me to toughen up. In our early days, I can remember that there must have been someone going to the gas chamber or electric chair, one or the other, and a woman reporter from the Afro was sent to cover it because he wanted to make sure that there was no discrimination between the women and the men.

You heard me say that I was a police reporter, and I assume that on other papers they were mostly men. I was the only woman on the beat at the time. So he made sure that you got all the tough assignments just like anybody else. We traveled just like everybody else. It didn't make any difference. You have to understand that he had to find out what worked, and so he'd send a man this time and send a woman the next time. Did it work? His only concern was, did it work.

Ingersoll: Can you tell me a little bit about that experience as a police reporter?

Murphy: My only real experience there was the fact that it was just another assignment. These were the kinds of things I was doing anyhow, and in the early days being a police reporter meant that you went to a police station, or as we called them, precincts. The hearings were held right in that police station. You had a magistrate sitting right there. You didn't have the big courts as they do today, where everybody goes downtown to a court. Each individual station had a magistrate, so it was like going into any other building. I went into the building in the morning, I checked the police docket, I saw who was coming up for trial. If it was an interesting trial, I'd sit around and listen to it. If it wasn't, I'd talk to the witnesses. Things were very open, not closed like they are today, where it's hard to get to a witness, where you've got all these policemen standing around and you can't talk to anybody.

In the early days, reporting was a lot easier than it is now. There weren't that many people. You'd go into a police station, and if you saw ten or twelve cases on the docket, that was a big docket for the morning. Now you go into a court and they've got two hundred or three hundred people. But each police station was like that. I was assigned to northwest Baltimore for a while. Then I got assigned to, I think it was, southeast or something. But I didn't consider it a hard assignment. The people were nice, they talked to me, and I very seldom had any difficulty, even with the hardened criminals who would have to go before the grand jury. When they came into the magistrate's courts where I was assigned, they would go before the judge, and he'd hold them over for the grand jury. Even then you had a chance to talk to them and they could give you a statement.

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Ingersoll: Do you remember any other particular things during those years between '44 and '51 when you worked on the Baltimore Afro-American that were formative experiences for you, things from which you learned quite a bit?

Murphy: I think we learned in those early days to work very hard. We got away from the notion that you had a nine-to-five job, and then we learned to pull together, work together as a staff. We all worked until the job was done. It didn't make any difference how late that was. Those were the early days when you had young children and you'd worry about the children, and I was very fortunate to have a mother-in-law, as well as a mother, who looked after the children. But I guess in those early days I was just meeting people and enjoying people. I love people. So they were good days. I don't remember anything really too outstanding in my mind. We had some interesting experiences in Richmond and in Washington and in Baltimore, but I don't think any of the stories were really that outstanding where I would look back now and really think, "Gee, that was really a great one."

Ingersoll: You mentioned having young children in those days. When you got out of college, what were your expectations for a job or a career, marriage and a family, or maybe putting it off? Did I read a note, I think, that you had a fiancé who was killed in '46?

Murphy: Yes. I'll just skip that.

Ingersoll: All right.

Murphy: Yes, I still can't talk about it.

Ingersoll: But the more general questions about your expectations for a job or a career and marriage or putting it off or whatever?

Murphy: I don't think I had any real expectations, you know. I think as you came along and your friends got married and you got older, you said to yourself, "Well, maybe it's time to settle down." I had come, as you just said, through a tremendous experience, and I may have made up my mind at the time I was not getting married. You heard me talk about the young man [James Wood] whose father was the superintendent of schools, and we were very close, and he pulled me out of the doldrums, and we eventually got married. But I really didn't have any great expectations about, "Oh, my. Are you going to settle down?" Boy, that does upset me.* [Laughter] You going to settle down, you going to have children, you know, things like that, no. I think things just came naturally, and I just went ahead and did them.

Ingersoll: So then your daughter was born, Frances Murphy Wood, in December of 1947. Did you stay home for a while, or did you continue working? You mentioned that you had a mother and a mother-in-law who helped.

Murphy: I think what really happened was that I went right back to work after two weeks. I don't know how it happened, but I was in a group where we were bringing young girls up from the South who wanted to be household help, and I brought two sisters up, one whose name was Sarah Bohanan, who went to my mother's house, and one who came to my house. She was there every morning to take care of the baby, and I went on to work. Sarah sticks in my mind because she stayed with my parents until my mother died. In fact, she stayed after that. I think she stayed even until up to when my father died.

* Referring to the death of her fiancé.

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Ingersoll: That was a long time.

Murphy: Yes, she stayed a long time. The young woman I had, because I left here and went to Richmond, stayed here and went to another family. But we brought them up from the South and encouraged them to go to school while they were with us. The young woman who was with me did go back to school and eventually went on and graduated from college. Sarah, if I remember correctly, did not. As you heard me say, she stayed with Mother and Dad. But that was the way I was able to do it.

We went to my mother's house for dinner once a week, and we went to my mother-in-law's (Nellie Wood) once a week. My mother-in-law was a tremendous cook. She was always a tremendous cook. She eventually married a caterer (Mr. Waters) after Dr. Wood died. And so I would go to Mama Wood's and bring dinner home for the next couple of days. So they made life just great for me.

My sister Bettye, in the early days, didn't have any children, but I think by the time I had Toni (Frances), she had a daughter. My husband's brother John, or "Junkie," as we called him, did not have any children, and he was godfather to two of my children, and his other brother, Albert, was the godfather to the other one and then his aunt, Dora Hutchinson, was godmother to one, and they all helped with the children. So I had a huge family around that really helped, and we helped each other.

I was extremely fortunate in the fact that when the children got to be about eighteen months, they went to nursery school, the Little School run by Iona Collins, who was my sister-in-law. Iona had the greatest nursery school that you could imagine. She had a Little School bus that picked the children up in the morning and took them up to Aunt Sis, or Miss Collins, as they called her, and delivered them back at the end of the day. She taught them everything. It was just absolutely amazing. I heard my daughter say the other day, "Aunt Sis taught me not only how to behave and sit still and talk properly, but how to use the knife and the fork." She kept them up until the time they went to kindergarten, and then the Little School bus picked them up from elementary school and took them—they had a half day then—took them after half day back to Little School, where she kept them until we were ready to come home from work. And in our case, because I would be working such ungodly hours, Aunt Sis took them home with her. If I didn't pick them up on time, Aunt Sis took them home and would fuss and call you to come and get your children. Aunt Sis had the Little School for all of our friends' children. All of them went to Little School. I don't think we would have made it without Aunt Sis. She didn't sell that nursery school until a couple of years ago, which means that she had not only our children, but my grandchildren.

Ingersoll: What a wonderful influence to have had.

Murphy: If you would see her, you could understand what I mean. She is tall, like her father was, very sedate, and beautifully, gorgeously dressed, and everything is just meticulous, every hair in place. Her house is like that, too. She and her husband Howard have adopted a child, Jill Collins. Our children just loved her. She taught them all the nursery rhymes and everything they needed to know.

Ingersoll: Did she have other children besides the Murphy children?

Murphy: Oh, yes. All of our friends' children, and then anybody who could afford it sent their children to Little School. At one time there, I'm sure she had a couple hundred children. Mama Wood, in some of those years, cooked some of the meals for the children. She'd come in and cook

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the meals. She served them a full lunch. She served them a snack in the morning, lunch at noon, and a snack in the afternoon. She took them on trips, took them a lot of places.

Ingersoll: Do you think that the mothers of most of her children were working?

Murphy: Yes. Most of us were either teaching school or they were working at the Afro. She had some who were working in government, some working in the city. And all of my children still know all of the children that went to Little School.

Ingersoll: Your husband [James Edward Wood, Sr.] was working for the Afro then at the same time.

Murphy: In the beginning.

Ingersoll: What was he doing?

Murphy: He was a reporter in the beginning, like I was. And then when we were sent to Richmond, he was the managing editor and I was the editor. He was the managing editor; he was my boss. And then he and Dad fell out about something, and he went on and did something else, and I became the managing editor in Richmond. When I came to Washington—no, he came to Washington. We came into Washington together, yes. We came to Washington together. He was still the managing editor and I was the editor of the Washington office. It was in Washington that he went on and he did something else. Then we came back to Baltimore, and I became city editor here, and he went on and did something else. He was interested in entertainment and things like that.

Ingersoll: While you were both writing, did you read each other's things and comment on them and that kind of thing?

Murphy: Oh, yes. He could get a story in a minute, just go everyplace and get stories and so forth. And he'd come back, and in those days we had typewriters, and so you'd write them on the typewriter, and you had to have somebody go behind you and correct them. And it wasn't where you'd have correction fluid and that. You had to go back and cross it out, X it out. Even in the style book it said, "Don't go back. Just X it out and keep on going." [Laughter.]

Ingersoll: We've gone a little bit beyond the period of the war, but generally, I think, the black press grew a good deal during the war years. Was that true of the Afro-American?

Murphy: Yes. I think the largest circulation we ever had in history was during the war, 200-some thousand. The paper went overseas. We had six or seven correspondents overseas at the time, one of them my sister Bettye, the rest of them were men, in all theaters of war. They were following the troops, and they would send back their dispatches, once censored, back to the office, and we ran them. They came in by Western Union in those days; over the wire machine they'd send them back. And some of them came back with a lot of material crossed out, but some came in, where you could read the whole thing.

Ingersoll: Did you ever have any feeling that you would have liked to be one of those war correspondents during the war? Bettye went, as you said.

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Murphy: I never had a feeling that I should go over to the war zone. I worked as a nurse's aide here. I had fallen in love here at that time during the war, so therefore I had no intentions of going. The young doctor who I was in love with was working at Provident [Hospital], and I was working as a nurse's aide, and so therefore I had no intention of going anywhere. [Laughter.]

Ingersoll: Ferrar writes that during the World War I era, the Afro moved from being a sedate paper to a more sensational kind of paper. But then during World War II, he says, because there was so much war news or news about the various army camps to print, and because the paper had to be reduced to twenty-four pages from the twenty-eight that had been, probably because of the paper shortage and that kind of thing, that a lot of the sensationalism was pushed off the paper in order to put these other things in. Do you have any recollection about anything like this having happened, first of all?

Murphy: Looking back in the bound files that we have in our office, I can see a progression of the paper where it changed in format, like other papers were changing across the country. The early papers had about four or five columns on the front page, but they were small, tabloid size. The Afro became what we called a broad sheet, which it is today, which the sheet is a full-length news sheet, twenty-two inches long.

I have looked in the bound files, and one of the things that we are doing today is what they did back then. What we are doing is copying what they did back then, where they ran four or five headlines across the top of the paper, where they gave you a cross-section of what was going on. So if you had something that was, say, a murder, then rest assured there would also be some good news about the Supreme Court, some local news, and then some news about maybe what's going on in the church world and so forth. That's the format that we're copying today. So I don't know what he's using as his basis for judgment.

I see in the old Afros that we are using—we got a bound file from 1936 which we are using as a guide for our paper today. We discussed it in our staff meeting, and we decided to look at some of the old bound files and see what they were doing and how they were doing it. Then we discovered that, since in those days they were sold by newsboys and by newsstands, that because we have five thousand readers who automatically will get it by subscription, where we need to move is on the street. And so therefore we said, "Well, let's go back and look at what they did when they were selling most of the papers on the street." So that took us back to the '36 bound files, which is before the war. Then we came up to the war period, and even in the war period we saw where they had a headline on the war, then they had something good going on, then they were talking about the civil rights front and so forth, and then they would talk about something else, what's maybe going on in the schools and so forth. And so we're doing the same thing today.

People have a feeling of seeing things as sensational because they used in those days the big headlines. We're not using those huge headlines. Our headlines are what we call thirty point, which is just about maybe an inch. They were using those of an inch and a half and two inches. "WAR ENDS!"—great big old things like that, sixty-four point type. Maybe that gave the feeling of being sensational. When you really look at the old Afros, you have to get the feeling that they covered the waterfront. They made sure that you knew things were going on across the country. And we're trying to do the same thing.

Ingersoll: I'm not sure how relevant this question is, but I wonder, if it were the case that sensationalism was diminished during the war, would this have at all been caused by the fact that

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there were more women, the mosquito patrol women and others, that were putting out the paper in those days?

Murphy: War news, I would consider in the line of sensationalism, it seems to me, because you had the casualties in the headline and what battles we were facing at that time. I can recall a headline, just the other day we were talking about, where they were saying that there were so many Tuskeegee airmen who had been killed in the middle of a battle or something, and then they were fighting about the fact that these guys said that they wanted to fight, they didn't want to stay behind and sweep the streets, or something along that line. Those are the kind of headlines the Afro had in those days.

Don't forget now, you're dealing with two different things. You're talking about the mosquito patrol. We were handling local news. There was a staff that handled national news. I must point that out to you. Our job was strictly local. The gentlemen you've heard me talk about, Mr. Cliff MacKay, Mr. William Gibson, those were the men in charge of the national side of the paper.

Ingersoll: And they stayed during the war? Were they older men?

Murphy: Yes. We didn't have anything to do with the national side. My dad and those managing editors handled all the stuff coming back from the correspondents, the things coming in from the NAACP. The only thing we did was just what I said, covered the local news.

Ingersoll: Then, according to Ferrar, unionization came along during the 1940s. Do you have any recollection of that and what it meant for the Afro?

Murphy: Not really firsthand recollection. In reading the paper and reading my father's papers, I know there had to be a strike at one time. I know that he was extremely upset that here in his family newspaper people thought they had to organize in order to get what they wanted. I know he fought against the union coming in, and I know it came in.

Today we have maybe six members of the union left in the entire plant. What basically has happened is that automation has come in. They fought automation. Many newspapers would be fully automated by now if it hadn't been for the union. I don't say that to blame the union, because I would fight for my job, too. You bring in a machine, and it just simply means that the people have to leave unless they know how to work the machines. So I can imagine that he felt that way back then. He was dealing with a huge plant with all of those people and hot metal. I don't know if you have any understanding of what I mean by "hot metal," where they had those huge metal pots, where the pot would be boiling and you had to pick that metal up and pour it into a linotype machine to make the type and so forth. And I imagine that the union fight was over whether or not they're going to get rid of those huge linotype machines and bring in the modern computers to produce the newspaper.

So I can see that he wanted to progress, and I don't blame the union for not wanting him to, because they would have lost their jobs. As for being in the actual union fight, I don't think that was during that time, or if it was, it didn't make an impression on me. But I have read about it, yes.

Ingersoll: Then in '51, you moved onto two other jobs, as I understand it, one working with the Richmond Afro-American, and the other with the Washington.

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Murphy: I went to Richmond first, and I must have stayed in Richmond a good eleven or twelve months. We did so very well in Richmond. There was an opening in Washington, which was closer to him [Carl Murphy] and which needed more help, and he moved us to Washington.

Ingersoll: Closer to your father?

Murphy: Yes, because Washington was a larger paper and the seat, of course, of the nation's capital. So we stayed in Richmond and then we came to Washington.

Ingersoll: What was the reason for going to Richmond first?

Murphy: They needed an editor. It was a smaller newspaper and it was a training ground. He [Carl Murphy] had his eye on Washington, and so he sent us to Richmond first to see if we could do the job. He figured we could do the job and moved us over to Washington.

Ingersoll: Were there any particular things that stood out during that Richmond period?

Murphy: I remember one story my husband had—Tunnel Joe. Oh boy, this must have been a guy who tunneled his way out of prison. He went down somewhere outside of Petersburg [Va.] to cover the story, and that was a big story for a while. I remember that one.

Richmond was a tremendous place to go, because we moved out of one family atmosphere to another, where we went into Richmond and picked up some of the most tremendous friends anybody could ever have in your life. You felt that you couldn't find friends like that except at home.

Ingersoll: Were they people connected with the newspaper, or a wider group?

Murphy: They were a wider group. There was a small group of about ten couples. We moved into a big shingled house. We had two children. It had a coal furnace, and my husband had never seen or had to work with a coal furnace. We had a friend by the name of [Allen] Brodnax, who he had met, who was our photographer, and Brodnax came every morning and stoked the pipes. The godfather for my youngest child, Susan—who was not born yet; she was born in Washington—Everett White, he was the doctor who helped, he and his wife, Adelaide; Dr. and Mrs. Jimmy Brown, who were the dentists, these people who were just nice. The guys who owned the black bank there. There was just a small group of us, and we stuck together and we helped each other, and they all helped us get started in Richmond, made life very pleasant for us in Richmond.

Ingersoll: Had you had some uncomfortable feelings about moving away from the family?

Murphy: Yes, especially with two children. See, we had our two children here in Baltimore, with Aunt Sis' nursery school, you know, and you kind of feel, "What are you going to do with children down in Richmond?" We got into Richmond, and a woman by the name of Estelle Clark was our social writer and ran a school. The children went to her nursery school. Then we got them into an elementary school around the corner from the Afro, and that was great. So things worked out very well.

I only have one awful memory of Richmond. It was a hurricane or tornado, I don't remember which. We couldn't get to the children. Nobody knew what had happened. I started out to go get them, and then this storm hit. Then come to find out, they were all well taken care of.

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Ingersoll: But it must have been frightening for a period of time, anyway.

Murphy: Yes. But Richmond was just wonderful.

Ingersoll: And then you moved to Washington, and that was from about 1952 to '55.

Murphy: Those were nice years. Those were good years when the Afro was growing in Washington, where there was a lot going on. We had a chance to really work with the nation's capital, to work with the White House, to do just about everything. I liked those years. Those were good years, too. And we were closer to home. We could go home all the time.

Ingersoll: Did you find another good arrangement for your children?

Murphy: Yes, very good arrangement. We got them into a nursery school here, elementary school, Grimke School, which is no longer a school now, got them in the Grimke School, which was half a block away from the office. Those were very good years for them. Their teacher there in Grimke School was a sister to Art Carter, who was working then at the Afro in Baltimore. He came back later to Washington to be its publisher, and his sister looked after them, too. We always had somebody who was very kind to the children.

Ingersoll: Was Grimke a public school?

Murphy: Yes, Grimke was a public school.

[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]

Ingersoll: What kind of responsibilities did you have on the Richmond and Washington papers? Did you, for instance, have responsibilities for hiring and firing people?

Murphy: Yes, we did. We did all the hiring and the firing in Richmond, with the approval of the home office. We did the interviewing. We would recommend to them, and generally if we recommended, they would accept it. If there was a problem, they would ask us to send the person up to Baltimore for an interview.

Ingersoll: And when you say "us," would that have been yourself and your husband?

Murphy: And my husband. He was the managing editor.

Ingersoll: Did you work pretty closely together on things like this?

Murphy: Yes. Generally, he liked to get out on the street and cover news stories. And so even though I was the editor and he was supposed to be the managing editor, he did all the running and I was the one who was the center person in the office. So we switched jobs that way, and, of course, that let me stay in close contact with the children, too, which means if he was off somewhere, say, in Richmond, it could have meant that he would be in Petersburg and Portsmouth and Newport News, anyplace, and rather than me being the person doing that, he was.

Ingersoll: What about budget? Did you manage your own budgets, too?

Murphy: They gave you a budget. They would ask you to say what you thought you needed, and they gave you a budget, and you were expected to operate within that budget.

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Ingersoll: Was that a difficult thing in those days?

Murphy: My father went by experience, and he would look back and see what they had spent the year before and what were some of the things that had come up. It gave you a pretty real budget. It wasn't a guessing budget. He knew exactly what had been spent. He would go through the checks from the year before and the year before and get an average in his head of this is what you needed to operate. If something unusual came up, all you had to do was call the home office, write the home office and ask them, "Can we do so and so?" And he would come back with, "What do you want to do with it, and how can it help the whole chain?" Like the Tunnel Joe story. He thought that was going to be a story that we were going to run across the chain. Despite the fact it wasn't in our budget, he put it in the national budget.

Ingersoll: My understanding of many newspapers in the black press was that there—of course, many other newspapers, too, have always had a budget problem, but black press newspapers maybe more than some others. Did the Afro have to operate under this kind of constraint, too?

Murphy: I imagine in those days that we were doing very well, that we were the ones pushing for a combined wire service for all the black press. This is a time when we had the Associated Negro Press (ANP), and Dad and others in that organization were working very hard to get that [wire service] started. When they sent the men overseas and my sister overseas, they went overseas for the Afro, but he shared the stories with the other black newspapers. Louis Lautier, our correspondent on Capitol Hill, also wrote for ANP. We, therefore, must have had a decent cash flow, that we were able to do what we needed to do. We must have been doing very well.

Ingersoll: It sounds as though this problem was less than on other papers.

Murphy: Well, my father was a good investor. He had a good sense of the stock market; he had a good sense of what he needed to do with his money. And then he, like the rest of us, was always a saver, so he always had money put away for a rainy day.

Ingersoll: Has this followed through the years for the Afro?

Murphy: Up until recent times, when we weren't able to do as much as we used to do in the old days, and so therefore we hit into the family squabble time. And once families start fighting, you erode your base.

Ingersoll: You mentioned somewhere that your youngest child, Susan Murphy Wood, who was born in 1954, you had to raise almost single-handedly. Was it fairly soon after she was born, then, that you and your husband divorced?

Murphy: That's correct.

Ingersoll: Was it a struggle through the years?

Murphy: Looking back, I think it must have been a struggle. But I was having a good time, and I think because I was so fortunate in having such a good family network. His brothers were so good to us. His sister, you heard me say, had the Little School. She was so good.

Ingersoll: Did they continue to be as good even after the relationship stopped?

Murphy: Oh, my, yes. Mother Wood would just embarrass me so, because even after the divorce I'd walk into a room and she would say, "Here comes my daughter-in-law." And she said,

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"I'm awfully sorry. You're the mother of my grandchildren, and you'll always be my daughter-in-law." Mother Wood and, of course, my mother and father were very close, and despite the fact that my early memory was that Dr. Wood was sort of at odds with my dad, Mother Wood and my mother were always friends; it was just natural. We were in the same social groups and everything, so wherever I appeared, where his brothers were there, where his sister was, it made no difference. They went out of their way to make sure the children got such gorgeous Christmas presents all their lives, beautiful things, and that has continued today. If I go to Baltimore right now, I'm invited to their family reunions. It seems to make no difference. Of course, my ex-husband and his wife now, we're all friends, too, so it really makes very little difference.

Ingersoll: Do you think the fact that you were both working so hard on the newspaper was a strain on your marriage?

Murphy: That would be an untruth. No. Unfortunately, he got into a crowd of gambling and so forth that strained us tremendously. I had to make a decision whether the children were more important at that point in our life or whether we were going to continue to allow him to do what he was doing. I made a decision that it was time to back off, that despite the fact that everybody says, "Well, you have such good breeding, both of you, you're both from such tremendous families, and he'll turn around," unless he was willing to go for help, we had to separate. And he did not see his problem as the problem that I saw it, so I had no choice.

Ingersoll: Then in 1955 to 1957, you became city editor of the Baltimore Afro-American. Why was that change?

Murphy: We came back from Washington, and I went back to work at the Baltimore office. Susan had been born then, and it was time to go on back to Baltimore. So we came back from Washington. My dad knew I was going to get a divorce at that point, and so he got us established back here in Baltimore, gave us the house on Elgin Avenue, and sort of knew what was coming. He knew I had pretty well made up my mind, that I was just waiting for the baby to get to some point where I could back away, and it was time to come home and get settled into the family. He was really putting some protection around me at that point, so he brought us back from Washington. My mother had a sense that things were not going too well, and she knew I had pretty well made up my mind what I was going to do. She didn't know when I was going to do it, but she knew I had pretty well made up my mind.

Ingersoll: During that period as city editor, you wrote those columns, "Across City Desk," that I went through in your scrapbook. What did you see was the main purpose of those columns?

Murphy: I was really trying to make sure that the people I came in contact with were the people behind the stories and you got their names in the paper, too, because there were so many tremendous leaders you just couldn't get into a news story. You're writing a hard news story, and these are the people maybe who got lost in that hard news story. And so I went back and said, "Well, gee, I don't have any other place to put this. Let me put them in a column." Another suggestion was that maybe people need to read about these people, too, about the nice things that people did. Bettye was writing "If You Ask Me," and I think she took a little vacation there sometime, and I put the column in her place.

Ingersoll: So this was, in a way, a bit of a substitute for her?

Murphy: I may have been a substitute for her at the time. I think she may have come back and continued her column. When I first started it, I think it was the fact that she was going away on vacation or something.

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Ingersoll: There was a real human interest angle to those, I noticed.

Murphy: Yes. They were the people who evidently called me and talked to me in between getting and gathering stories and so forth.

Ingersoll: Check me and see if this rings true to you. I had the feeling that also there was an education of the readers angle to it. I'm thinking particularly of one part of a column in '55 when you said that parents often wondered what proper decorum was when they were visiting schools, and you lined out pretty much what the schools would like to have parents do when they were coming for a school visit.

Murphy: Remember, I had three young children at that point, and if I came across a problem that I couldn't solve, I said, "There's got to be somebody else out there who may be having the same problem. Let me find the answer," and then I'd put it into the column, because I felt there may be other working mothers or people who had the same things coming up facing them. So once I found out about it, I put it in.

Ingersoll: Secondly, I thought that the general tone was kind of a gentle nudge at segregation. Maybe a gentle nudge isn't the way to put it. I was going mainly on two columns that I read. There was that lovely irony in the column that was about Maude Smart, and it was in terms of whites not wanting blacks to be on juries because they would have to invite them to their dinner at the end of the year. But Maude Smart had somehow gotten on a jury. Maybe she was one of those who, as you say, passed. But she had been invited to the dinner, and everybody had had a wonderful time together.*

The other one was about Ralph Finney, who had married a German war bride who was having a baby. And when he came to visit his baby, they told him that he was in the wrong hospital, and he said, "Oh, no. My wife is here." And everybody wanted to see that baby.*

Murphy: That's interesting. I'll have to go back and look at those. But that's true. Ralph Finney, I remember his German bride, yes. What we tried to do here again was to let people see some of the human side, and that was what the column was all about. Whatever came across the desk.

Ingersoll: Would you say a gentle nudge at segregation would be a fair way of—

Murphy: Yes. Because the newspaper was blasting about it, but here was a column that was really just saying, "Well, look. Here's the other human side of it."

Ingersoll: That's right. Tell me some more about what you did as city editor.

Murphy: In those days, all the reporters sat around a sort of horseshoe-like desk, and then you had about four or five reporters who went out and covered stories. I liked to cover stories, so I did, also. Then they'd come back and write their stories.

My job was to assign them, first of all, see that everybody was busy, and then to look at their stories when they came back. Once I looked at them, they passed on to the copy editors. If there was something involved at the national angle, they would go over to the managing editor

* Afro-American, November 5, 1955.
*Afro-American, September 17, 1955.

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with the story. If there was something in the realm of the NAACP or something, they'd clear it with Mr. Carl [Murphy], because, of course, he was working directly with them. He may have just picked a line or he may have had the overall picture for the entire country. If it was just strictly local, I handled it, sent it on to the copy desk, which sent it on through the process. Basically, we spent most of the time out covering stories and so forth. It's typical city editor; occasionally write an editorial if there was something local going on that had to be written. But in the Baltimore office in those days, there were a lot of people doing editorials. When you got out to the branch offices, you had to do all your own, because there's nobody else there but you. But in Baltimore there were a lot. Dad wrote editorials, the managing editor would be writing editorials, and then your city editor would be writing them. Then you'd get together and talk about what you were doing.

My memory is that we had a lot of conferences on a lot of things going on in the Afro at that time so that they made sure that you stayed within your own perimeters, because there would be a chance that the stories would cross over, especially local and national. There was just so much going on in Baltimore then. Those were the times with the fights with, as you know, school integration, equal pay for firemen, simple things like a black getting on the jury, black firemen, all these things were going on at the same time. But they had implications for the nation, because everybody else was fighting for the same thing. There were cases being filed in the federal courts and in the local courts about the University of Maryland, integration there. So there was just so much going on in the civil rights area that you had to be careful that when you went to a meeting of the local group that was fighting for something local, that you didn't overshadow something that was going on and make sure that somebody knew that also Philadelphia is doing this and New Jersey is doing this and so forth. So we tried to pull it all together.

Ingersoll: That must have been a very difficult time, wasn't it?

Murphy: They were busy times, not difficult, because my father had a way of making sure that we all knew what was going on, and he would frequently say to you, "Okay, this story is going to impact on this one. Make sure you see what the Washington person has and make sure you see what Richmond has," or "Don't forget to look at that Richmond story that ran in their paper last week and try to pick up a paragraph or two from that."

Ingersoll: Were you in on any of those particular fights that you just mentioned?

Murphy: Only when they came into the office or if he'd invite us home to listen to them. See, we were living away from home in those days. Of course, we heard a lot of it on Sunday when we went to Sunday dinner, because we all went to my mother's and dad's for dinner. We would go to Sunday dinner, and we'd hear then about some of the people who had been in. Or we'd read his story in the paper. He would write a story about someone who came in. We would be in on it to that extent. If the politicians came in, he might invite you in to just sit and listen. If it was off the record, you may not record it. I don't know if everything was recorded, but he would record.

Ingersoll: Then why did you leave journalism for a while and go toward education and go on and get your own advanced degree?

Murphy: I think in the columns—and I'm not sure, but I think it was in one of those columns where one of the readers—I'm almost sure it was, because that's something that's stuck in my mind for years, one of the readers wrote a letter and asked me about did I know what my children were doing, in one of those columns, "Across City Desk," and we talked about it, my dad and I. My son was getting up in age when he was going to be coming into a difficult time.

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My oldest daughter was getting there, but she needed more attention. Dad and Mom knew I loved to teach, because when they brought any groups into the office, I was the one they called and said, "Hey, come down and talk to them. Come in the office and talk to them."

He said, "Are you interested in going back to school and getting your education degree? Coppin State College has what is called a fifth year." And I thought about it. He said, "It will give you more time with the children, and then when they get a little bit older, you can come back to the paper." And I thought about it. And then, of course, he put the caveat in there, "Okay, I'll pay for it."

So I went back to college, left the office, and spent a year at Coppin State College getting a B.S. on top of my B.A. degree.

Ingersoll: You could live in the same place and go to Coppin, couldn't you?

Murphy: Yes. Dad gave me an allowance and paid the bills. I must have been divorced by that time. Sure, I must have been divorced by that time. I went to Coppin, earned my degree from Coppin, and got appointed to the school system right away, third grade, started teaching in third grade right away, which means I was able to take Susan where I was to elementary school. And so she came with me to elementary school, and Jimmy and Toni went to an elementary school close to home.

The oldest child, Toni, as we called her, was no problem, but Jimmy was quite a problem because he was so smart. He was so tremendously bright, and he gave us a problem. By the time he got up to the fifth grade, he was more than I could handle, so Dad put him into private school, and that straightened him right out. We kept him in private school for about a year, and then transferred him back into the special program at what was then Lemmel Junior High School. He was supposed to do the seventh, skip the eighth, and go onto the ninth, but we decided after he finished the seventh to hold him back and let him do the eighth, because he would have been too young. It's good we did.

Ingersoll: And that's always a problem socially.

Murphy: Yes. It's good we did, because when he finally got up to college, he finished college in three years and went on to medical school. And so it was just good that we had held him back back then, because he would have been terribly young in med school. So we were sort of glad. As it was, he finished med school in three years, and he was still so young when he got out of med school that he took a year off and did some extra studying. But we were happy that at that time the decision was made to hold him back. I'm sure Mother and Dad had a great deal to do with that decision, but he just was too young. But he gave the elementary school teachers a fit. He had just read everything, and she's up there talking about something he had read and he'd tell her, "Well, that was in the end of the book," and she hadn't even gotten to the end of the book yet. [Laughter.]

Ingersoll: So he was bored, probably, by what they offered.

Murphy: He was bored, yes, and he got into trouble. Once he got into senior high school and got into that special math and got into that special science, he was all right; he stayed in.

Ingersoll: The challenges were greater.

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Murphy: He was great. But in elementary school and junior high school, that was a little different.

Ingersoll: How did you feel yourself about the move from journalism to education at that time?

Murphy: I guess I had my eyes on my children at that time, and since it gave me the chance to look after the children—and I was really concerned about them because they were all so bright—I was quite happy teaching. I had an excellent first position as a third-grade teacher at School #144 with an excellent principal [Dr. Mary Brooks]. Oh, she was just outstanding, and I was very fortunate in that. That meant that I went to school early in the morning and then was able to be home when they got home from school, except on faculty meeting days, and those weren't any problem at all.

Ingersoll: There's just one more general question I want to ask you, and that is you mentioned bringing two sisters up from the South. In this period of the fifties, social historians have told us that one thing they know very little about, and want to know more about, was this rather great, large movement of blacks from the South to the North that generally wasn't documented in any of the mainstream papers. Nobody seemed to be terribly aware of this, but historians now think it was one of the most important things that happened during that period. Do you remember being at all aware of anything like that? Was there anything in the Afro that reflected an awareness of this?

Murphy: Awareness of it? Basically, it must have been word of mouth. It must have been that someone went somewhere and saw maybe these two sisters. I don't know how we finally got in touch with these two sisters, but it must have been that someone came back and said, "Hey, I have two young women who need some help. Do you know where they can work or get them into a home? Do you know a family that maybe could use them?" And because I had young children, it may have been that the person, knowing that I had young children, said, "Can you use some help in the home?" And I remember he said, "All you have to do is bring them up, pay for their transportation and bring them up, and hopefully let them go to school."

That must have been the way it worked, because these two, I do know, came together and were looking for homes, and I do know that one of them I recommended to my parents. I also know the young woman who worked for me went on and worked for my friends Elsie and David Scott for a while after I left and went on to Richmond. I don't know whether there was an overall great big program or whether it was just one of these things that someone had come into the office or Dad had heard something about it. He was all over the place, and so it could have been that way. I don't think it was structured or organized or anything. I think it was just like it is today. Somebody hears something about somebody needs some help and says, "Look, can you find a family where maybe they can go and work?" [Tape interruption.]

Ingersoll: You felt that we could go on and record the story of your fiancé's death.

Murphy: I was engaged to Dr. Walter L. Wheat, who had just completed his internship at Provident Hospital in Baltimore, and he had gone on to Xenia, Ohio, and he was going to set up his practice. We were going to have this huge wedding. The showers had been given in Baltimore by my friends, and it was about a month before the wedding. We had sat up the night before, my mother and my dad and I, writing the wedding invitations, and it was going to be a big wedding, with about six or seven bridesmaids and everything. The next morning my father wanted to take the invitations to be mailed, and my mother said, "No, I don't want to do them right now. I'll do them myself."

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He said, "I'll drop them off to the post office."

She said, "No. I want to go over them one more time."

I evidently had gone to work with my dad that morning, because I was working at the Afro. Along about a couple of hours, my dad called me into the office and told me to go home. I said, "What do I have to go home for?"

He said, "Your mother wants to see you. I think something's just not right. Your mother wants to see you. I'm going to send you home."

In those days, the gentleman who drove for my dad, William Kirkwood, got the car and took me on home. When I got into the house, the invitations were gone and all the shower gifts, which had been all spread out all over the living room, had disappeared, and my mother was packing my bag. Then she told me that Dr. Wheat had been in a head-on collision and that he was driving back to Dayton, where he lived, and that at this point they thought he was still alive, and she wanted me to go on to Dayton. I got the plane and went on to Dayton. She said, "I'll be on the next plane." By the time I got there, he was dead.

Ingersoll: Oh, that must have been so difficult.

Murphy: It was. I got back after the funeral. [Murphy pauses.] I haven't talked about it. And they sent me away for about two or three months to his folks down in Georgia. That was a good healing time for me. And she told me to come back when I was ready to go to work.

Ingersoll: And you could be together with them in their loss, too, couldn't you?

Murphy: That's right. And I stayed, I guess, for two or three months, and then came on back. She called one day and said, "I think it's time that you come back and get yourself together." And she was right; she was right. She said, "You've got to go on with your life." So that was it.

Ingersoll: So you came back and went to work.

Murphy: Yes.

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