“On May 27, 1946, the Budget Committee of the Florida NAACP mailed a letter to every important African American leader in Florida: ministers, educators, NAACP branch presidents and heads of businesses and fraternal orders. “It is common knowledge,” it began “that the steady growth [of the Florida NAACP] has been due largely to the energetic leadership of Mr. Harry T. Moore… Mr. Moore has agreed to devote his full time to this important work.”
Harry T. Moore had just lost his job as school principal. To make matters worse, his wife, Henriette, also received word that her teaching contract would not be renewed. The terminations came as the family was set to send their second daughter to join her older sister as a student at Bethune Cookman College.
The official “blacklisting” came after years of volunteer work with the NAACP Florida State Conference, an organization Moore founded and formed into an effective vehicle of black activism. Faced with few options to renew his teaching career or support his family, Moore decided to make a bold move — forward.
Source:Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr by Ben Green 1999 The University of Florida Press pages 62 and 63
The ‘So-What?!’ Significance: The risks that come with taking a stand haven’t really changed over the years. The outspoken Harry T. Moore had a Plan B when white school administrators stripped him and his wife of their teaching jobs. Having options remains key for survival today as it was in Moore’s time.
On May 7, 1946, blacks in Florida made history when more than 30,000 of them voted in the state Democratic Party primary. The idea behind the vote was to give Black Floridians greater influence among the state’s dominant political party.
What made this so unique was that the Democratic Party wasn’t the diverse party of Barack Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus. Back in the day, southern Democrats were racist supporters of legal segregation, harsh laws that kept the races separate and blacks in their place.
The man behind this feat was Harry T. Moore, a schoolteacher in Mims and the founder of the NAACP Florida State Conference whose fight for racial equality made waves — and enemies — in the Sunshine State.
Ironically, Moore never got a chance to participate in the election. An ongoing fight with his local supervisor of election resulted in only four blacks voting Democratic in Brevard County where Moore lived. Moore wasn’t one of them.
Source:Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr by Ben Green, 1999 The University of Florida Press p. 59
“Want another example of black political involvement in Florida? Take the 1950 primary race between Democrat George Smathers and incumbent U.S. Sen. Claude Pepper.
In the eyes of Florida civil rights leader Harry T. Moore, Pepper was the only choice. To ensure black participation in a decisive primary vote, Moore organized a statewide voter registration drive. His goal: register 250,000 new voters
Smathers, an avowed segregationist, went on to win, but Moore’s four month effort paid off in a big way. By the May 2nd, primary, there were 116,145 registered black voters, a sixfold increase over the past six years and a rate 50 percent higher than any other southern state.”
Who among us has the courage of Harry Tyson Moore, a Florida schoolteacher turned activist who became the first martyr of the Civil Rights Movement? True commitment to a worthy cause comes with a price, a cost Moore paid dearly.
At 10:20 p.m. on Christmas Day, 1951, a bomb planted under Moore’s home in Mims, Fla., exploded, ending the lives of Moore and his wife of 25 years, Harriette, who died from her wounds a week later.
Moore was the Florida coordinator of the NAACP, crisscrossing the backroads of the Sunshine State in the 1940s to educate and organize black people. Investigating lynchings, registering black voters, writing letters of protest to state officials — all in the face of intense bigotry and personal danger — Moore blazed a trail as a civil rights leader long before the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X or Medgar Evers came to national attention.
On November 18, 1905, Harry T. Moore was born in Houston, a tiny rural farming community in the Florida Panhandle. Life was hard. His father died at an early age and young Harry was sent to live with aunts for a chance at a better life.
Education would be Moore’s path to success, that and a pamphlet from the NAACP. Moore was already a respected teacher and principal in Brevard County when a cousin gave Moore some brochures from the civil rights organization. Organizing an NAACP chapter in the deep South was risky, to say the least.
Moore didn’t flinch.
“In the eight years that he had been in Brevard County, Harry T. Moore had been biding his time, building a family and teaching career, and waiting for the right moment to get involved. Waiting for this. He would begin with the issue he knew best — education — but would soon be battling on political fronts he had never foreseen.”