Beatrice Murphy Campbell Papers, 1979-1989

Beatrice Murphy Campbell Papers, 1979-1989

Finding Aid

Collection No. 123 (.25 Linear Feet)
D.C. Community Archives


This collection.

Biographical Information

Beatrice Murphy Campbell was born on June 25, 1908 in Monessen, Penn.  When she was only 2 years old, her mother died. In 1914, she was brought to Washington, D.C., where she graduated from Dunbar High School and lived there until her death in 1992.
In order to support herself and her son, she worked in various jobs, and other positions. Yet, she managed to achieve an impressive literary career as a poet, editor, columnist, book reviewer and bibliographer. Her literary work was all done under the name Beatrice M. Murphy. She was a dedicated advocate and promoter of African American writers. 
In 1941, Campbell was diagnosed with an arthritic and inoperable curvature of the spine. Against doctors’ orders, despite this condition that required her to wear a body cast and braces, she worked for the Veterans Administration for some 18 years.

In 1954, as a result of anti-communist hysteria, she was accused of subversive activity and was suspended without pay from her position as a clerk with the VA. After a four-month ordeal to clear her name, she was reinstated to her position. In 1959, she retired from that agency on disability.

In the late 1960s she became legally blind and soon began to work with her ophthalmologist as a peer councilor to help others to cope with blindness or the threat of a loss of vision.
In 1965, Campbell, along with others, established The Negro Bibliographic and Research Center Inc., later renamed The Minority Research Center Inc. Despite being legally blind, she headed the center serving as the Director. In addition, she was the Managing Editor for Bibliographic Survey: The Negro in Print, the Center’s publication.

Among subscribers to the Bibliographic Survey were federal government departments and major universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad. In 1977, her friends incorporated the Beatrice M. Murphy Foundation to encourage the collection and dissemination of books by and about African Americans.
Campbell spent much of her retirement as a community volunteer and was formally recognized for service to the community with nominations and awards. In 1983 she received a meritorious service award from Mayor Marion Barry. These activities included testimony on the D.C. State Plan for the Aging and advocacy for improvement and other community problems and conditions that have an impact and effect on seniors, the elderly blind or the elderly physically disabled.

For her outstanding civic contributions The Community Service Award was renamed the Beatrice Murphy Campbell Community Service Award in 1992 upon the passing of Ms. Campbell, a devoted member of the Mayor's Committee on Persons with Disabilities.
Throughout most of her life, she lived with numerous health problems, underwent extensive medical treatments and repeated hospitalizations. On May 12, 1992, Campbell died from heart ailments.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of seven series, which include biographical information, correspondence, documentation of community involvement and service through affiliation with organizations, government agencies and departments and also speeches and testimony.

Processing Procedures

General processing procedures consisted of discarding duplicates and retaining a maximum of two copies. Metal staples and metal paper clips were removed and replaced with plastic archival clips. Documents were arranged in chronological order with undated items filed in the back of dated material. All documents were then placed into archival, acid free folders. A single loose photograph was placed into an archival Mylar sleeve.


There are no restrictions to this collection.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Biographical (1987-1988 and n.d.)

This series consists of biographical information in various forms that are largely type-written, but there is also some hand-written material. Included in this series are chronologies of her literary activity, a draft of an entry that she submitted and that was published in the Dictionary of Literary Biography along with a photocopy of the actual published entry.

Series 2: Correspondence (1978-1985 and n.d.)

This series is divided into incoming and outgoing correspondence. The incoming correspondence consists of letters—many of them responses initiated by Beatrice Campbell’s written inquiries and comments to hospital and city officials and agency executives. The outgoing correspondence consists of letters, memoranda and notes—typed and handwritten. These documents include correspondence to Mayor Marion Barry Jr., City Council and ANC members and also city agency and department executives and officials.

Series 3: Organizations (1980-1989, and n.d.)

This series largely documents a small portion Beatrice Campbell’s service to the District of Columbia and her volunteer work. Also, on a smaller scale this series documents her commitment to African American authors. This series is divided into four separate subseries:
  1. District of Columbia Commission on Aging;
  2. District of Columbia Statewide Health  Coordinating Council (SHCC);
  3. The Beatrice M. Murphy Foundation and;
  4. Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Series 4: Speeches and Testimony (1979-1984 and n.d.)

This series consists of the texts of speeches and testimony delivered before various commissions and  at other district  hearings on issues related to the conditions and problems of District of Columbia citizens, such as herself, who were elderly and physically or visually impaired.

Series 5: Clippings and a Newsletter (1955-1986, and n.d.)

This series consists of clippings. Most of these are photocopies with very few originals. The photocopies include her article written and published in the Washington Post’s Outlook section concerning her efforts to clear her name and reputation after being accused of membership in a subversive organization. There is also a photocopy of part of a book chapter on the same subject.

There is an undated photocopy of an obituary of her son Alvin Murphy from an unidentified newspaper. Also, there is an original clipping of the District of Columbia’s Women’s Hall of Fame call for nominees, a clipping about and D.C. Public Library bookmobile service for senior citizens that mentions Campbell.

Finally, there are three versions of the same issue of a Catholic Church Parish newsletter that notes her designation as Handicapped Person of the Year.

Series 6: Awards (1981-1989, n.d)

This series consists of items that document a few of (there were other awards and nominations but they are not documented in this collection) Beatrice Campbell’s awards and nominations including a self-produced “album” pertaining to her recognition as Handicapped Person of the Year designation.

Series 7: Miscellaneous (1980-1985 and n.d.)

This series consists of items that cannot be integrated with either of the other series’ and that are largely undated. 

Series 8: Photographs (n.d)

This series consists of one photograph.

Box Inventory

Series 1: Biographical

Box 1

  • 1 Folder, 1978-1988, n.d. 

Series 2: Correspondence

Subseries 1: Incoming Correspondence

  • 1 Folder, 1980-1983

Subseries 2: Outgoing Correspondence

  • 1 Folder, 1978-1985, n.d.

Series 3: Organizations

Subseries 1: District of Columbia Commission on Aging

  • 1 Folder, 1978-1979, n.d.

Subseries 2: District of Columbia Statewide Health Coordinating Council (SHCC)

  • 1 Folder, 1980-1982, n.d.

Subseries 3: The Beatrice M. Murphy Foundation

  • 1 Folder, n.d.

Subseries 4: Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)

  • 1 Folder, n.d.

Series 4: Speeches and Testimony

  • 2 Folders, 1979-1984, n.d.

Series 5: Clippings and Newsletter

  • 1 Folder, 1955-1986, n.d. 

Series 6: Awards

Subseries 1: Handicapped Person of the Year

  • 2 Folders, 1981, n.d.

Subseries 2: Women’s Hall of Fame, D.C. Commission for Women

  • 1 Folder, 1988-1989, n.d.

Series 7: Miscellaneous

  • 1 Folder, 1980-1985, n.d.

Series 8:  Photographs

  • 1 Folder, n.d.
Compiled by Andrea Cheney, September 2011

DC Public Library, Special Collections
D.C. Community Archives
901 G St. NW, Room 307
Washington, D.C.  20001

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