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Friday, March 24, 2023

An Educational Trailblazer and Visionary Delta Sigma Theta Co-Founder Vashti Turley Murphy

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was founded on January 13, 1913 by 22 collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to those in need. In March of 1913, the Founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. performed their first public act, participating in the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, D.C. 

   Vashti Turley Murphy was among this remarkable group of women and is among the wax figures you will find at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum located at 1601-1603 E. North Avenue.

   “Vashti Turley Murphy is immediately recognized by many visitors to the museum as one of the co-founders of Delta Sigma Theta,” said Dr. Joanne Martin, co-founder of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. “She was truly a trailblazer. The Murphy family has such a rich history. She was married to Carl Murphy. The two had the same sense of purpose regarding the struggle of Black people and doing everything within their power to bring about change.”

   Under the editorial control of Carl Murphy, The AFRO-American Newspaper rose to national prominence. He served as its editor-publisher for 45 years, using the editorial pages of The Afro-American to push for the hiring of African Americans by Baltimore’s police and fire departments; to press for black representation in the legislature; and for the establishment of a state supported university to educate African Americans.

   Born in 1884 in Washington, DC, Turley Murphy graduated from Howard in 1914. She was founder of the Baltimore Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. and co-founded the Philomathian Club, a Black women’s study group. She encouraged all Delta alumnae to vote, and to join the NAACP. She was a member of the board of directors of the Baltimore YWCA, president of the St. James Episcopal Church Women’s Auxiliary, a member of the wives’ club of Alpha Phi Alpha and the first president of the Women’s Auxiliary of Crownsville State Hospital.  

   “Many people visit Turley Murphy’s exhibit to see within the context of history, particularly through education and civil rights,” said Dr. Martin. “In 2023, her name and legacy is still very relevant. That says a lot about the tremendous contributions she made to society.”

   Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was incorporated in 1930. Today, the sorority has 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters located in the United States, Canada, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, West Africa, Southern African, United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Korea.

   Dr. Frances ‘Toni’ Draper is the Chairman of the Board and Publisher of The AFRO-American Newspapers. A member of the Deltas, the following is an excerpt from a piece Dr. Draper wrote about her grandmother Vashti Turley Murphy in a piece published by The AFRO-American Newspapers: 

   “More than 60 years ago, in a speech for a Delta sponsored mother-daughter luncheon, Grandmother said, “As a founder, it has been my privilege to rejoice quietly in the growth of this child; to see it stretch north, south, east and west; to see it expand into regions, boards, committees and projects. It has been a joy to note its work in fellowship, libraries and the creation of jobs; to discover that everywhere Delta goes, it encourages women to reach for the noblest, the highest and the best in our civilization and shed its sweetness and light upon our communities.” 

   To see the wax figure of Turley Murphy and other African American champions, visit the Great Blacks in Wax Museum. For more information including hours of operation visit https://www.greatblacksinwax.org/


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