Anna Evans Murray (1857-1955) was a racial justice activist, day nursery and kindergarten advocate, and educator whose contributions to advance public kindergarten focused on Washington, D.C. (Smith, 1996). In the national public kindergarten movement, the District of Columbia was one of the shining examples of successful efforts to secure public funding. The $12,000 allocation for the district’s public kindergartens approved by Congress with the 1898-1899 appropriations act is repeatedly mentioned in an early report detailing highlights from the city (Association for Childhood Education International, 1939). However, the process to secure public funding, the role of Black women’s leadership, and the national Black women’s movement undergirding these efforts was not noted by the Association of Childhood Education International (ACEI). Although earlier histories attribute the congressional appropriations to White women (Vandewalker, 1908), more recent and influential works credit Anna Murray for her leadership (Beatty, 1995; Allen, 2017).
In this profile, we take a deeper dive into Murray’s trajectory as a public kindergarten advocate in the context of early childhood education’s broader history. Anna Murray’s story not only demonstrates the importance of public funding for early learning’s sustainability and growth, but also underscores the challenges of providing training for Black teachers. As Black kindergarten advocate Haydee B. Campbell saw in St. Louis, early public kindergartens in Washington, D.C., were denied, delayed, or segregated for Black children. Murray’s advocacy of public kindergartens for Black children also included a crucial parallel strategy to train Black kindergarten educators.