CLEAN BLOCK LADY - Miss Frances Louise Murphy, who founded and directed this newspapers clean-up promotion for 23 years ago, was 83 years old on Easter Sunday. The only other time that her April 21st birthdate has come on Easter during her lifetime was back in 1833. (AFRO Archives Photo)

By AFRO Staff

As the AFRO celebrates education and those who have dedicated their lives to improving educational outcomes, the work of Frances Louise Murphy, I is once again deserving of the spotlight.

Murphy was a force to be reckoned with in Baltimore and beyond.

Inside the classroom, she was a bright light to students imparting knowledge, wisdom and good values to better their plight in life. Outside of the classroom, on the streets of Baltimore, Murphy was known as the “Clean Block lady,” who began the AFRO Clean Block campaign in 1934. For decades Baltimore would be known worldwide for marble steps so clean you could use them as a plate.

Though she never married or had children, Murphy was a mother figure in the community she so diligently served.

“Frances L. Murphy was a Baltimore legend,” said Unique Mical Robinson, a writer and performance artist who works with the Journalism & Multimedia Student Fellows at Coppin Academy. 

Coppin Academy is a charter school within the Baltimore City Public School System. The school is located inside of The Frances L. Murphy Research Center. 

“Her care and compassion for youth and community was displayed in her 40-year career as a schoolteacher, and the AFRO Clean Block Campaign,” said Robinson. “The youth of today greatly benefit from her leading by example, and I personally remain grateful to honor her, in this moment.”

The Frances L. Murphy Research Center opened in 1958 as the Frances L. Murphy Laboratory School Center and is located on the campus of Coppin State University, where Murphy taught.

Robinson said the students of the Frances L. Murphy Research Center “are born to be scholars.”

“With the school centered on Coppin State University’s campus, there is a rich legacy of Black History and excellence in academics – and they are the future generation to continue this legacy,” she said. “The students I’ve worked with have been some of the brightest and most talented students, many of whom deserve guidance, support, and opportunities to ensure they can continue paving a way towards possibility, and shaping their dreams from high school, and beyond.” 

Decades after her death, students of the Frances L. Murphy Research Center at Coppin Academy are exploring the world of journalism and diving into the AFRO archives, managed by AFRO Charities.

  • Frances L. Murphy, I (pictured at lower left) launched AFRO Clean Block in 1934 to beautify the city and engage schoolchildren throughout the summer.

“Her main focus was education. You could say that she had thousands of children because she mentored all of these kids throughout the summer,” said Savannah Wood, executive director of Afro Charities. “She had this really amazing network of Black teachers throughout Baltimore, so when she went to do Clean Block every summer, she kind of deputized them and had them reach out to all of their students to participate in the program.” 

To see how Frances L. Murphy, is still empowering students of Baltimore in 2022, visit the Eubie Blake Cultural Center on May 31 from 6pm to 7:30pm for the Student Fellowship showcase. 

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