The most hated black man in Florida...
He was the first civil rights leader to be assassinated,
but few know his name. His murder was the spark that ignited the
American civil rights movement, but even fewer know his story.
Before graduate student Mike King began using his given
name, Martin Luther, before Detroit Red changed his name to Malcolm X, and
before Medgar Evers joined the NAACP, civil rights activist Harry T. Moore
and his wife, Harritte, were murdered.
On Christmas night, 1951, an explosion ripped through the
little frame cottage he and his wife of 25 years called home. The
bomb was planted beneath their home, directly under their bedroom. The
brutal, deadly force of the blast slammed the bed they were sleeping in
through the thick wood ceiling rafters.
In the 1950s, in the Deep South, Moore's political activism had
earned him plenty of enemies. Some labeled him “the most hated black
man in Florida.” Harry Moore’s mother, visiting for the holidays,
voiced her concerns for Moore's safety late that evening. “Every
advancement comes by way of sacrifice," he told his mother before going to
bed. "What I am doing is for the benefit of my race."
A man on a mission
Harry T. Moore traveled the
boggy marshes of Florida, devoting himself to helping African-Americans
learn their constitutional rights. He was almost single-handedly
responsible for creating, and then expanding the Florida NAACP, which in
1951 was the only viable civil rights organization in the country. A
schoolteacher by profession, fired after twenty years for his political
activities, Moore fought against racial injustice long before there was a
civil rights movement.
He launched his own investigations of
brutal lynchings and unspeakable acts of mob violence in an era when a
sixteen-year-old black boy was killed merely for sending a Christmas card
to a white girl -- forced to jump into the Suwannee River in front of his
own father, where he drowned.
Harry Moore wore out countless
typewriter ribbons writing eloquent protests against such brutality,
knowing they would be met with outright hostility or indifference from
white officials. On a hand-cranked Ditto machine set up on his
dining room table, he churned out thousands of circulars attacking
lynchings, segregated schools and unequal salaries for black
teachers. Wearing his second hat, as the executive secretary of the
Progressive Voters' League, which he co-founded in 1944, he was the
singular driving force in the registration of 100,000 new black voters in
A “troublemaker and a negro organizer”
accomplished all this -- always in his measured, resolute fashion -- at a
time when most African-Americans were still afraid to challenge the Jim
Crow system head-on. He ignored "go-along-to-get-along" advice from
his peers during a time when the greatest accomplishment of many NAACP
branches was their Annual Coronation Ball and Beauty Pageant.
seventeen years, he crisscrossed the backroads of Florida, wearing out
three cars, traveling alone usually, and at night, through small towns
where no restaurant would serve him, no motel would house him and some gas
stations wouldn't let him fill his tank, empty his bladder, or even use
"What about Harry T. Moore?" an aide to Governor
Millard Caldwell wrote in 1946, inquiring of a commissioner in Moore's
home county. "He is a negro, is he not? Give me the dope on
him." The commissioner bluntly replied, "He is a trouble maker and
Five years after Moore’s death the
groundswell of change began to take hold -- first in Montgomery, and then
in Little Rock, Birmingham and Nashville. New headlines brought new
heroes. The bomb that rocked Moore’s home and took his life was once
referred to in newspapers as “the bomb heard round the world.”
Sadly, that horrendous event is largely forgotten. Almost fifty
years later, few people have ever heard his
Historical marker of homesite
inform and honor the works of Harry T. and Harriette Moore, an historical
marker has been placed at their homesite. There are plans to develop
the homesite “to commemorate the lives of two pioneering American black
civil rights workers.”
Preliminary plans include a
reconstruction of the Moore's six room house, with memorabilia from the
Moore's lives; a plaza with an educational and interpretive center; picnic
areas; rest rooms; and parking spaces.
The site is to serve as a
memorial to the Moore's, an education and interpretive center, and as a
center for social and cultural activities in the community. It is
expected that it will become a historical tourist destination. The
site is located just west of U.S. 1, at the south end of Freedom Avenue,
off Parker Street in Mims.
Watch for more news on the development
of the homesite at BlackFloridian.com. We will update the story as
There is so much more to the Harry T. Moore
saga! His complete story is told in the spellbinding book, Before
His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights
Martyr, brilliantly and lovingly written by Ben Green. Buy
the book at Amazon.com
and pass on this marvelous story of courage and commitment!