December 25 also marks the 69th anniversary of the violent murders of two Floridians whose names I hope you know: Harry T. and Harriette Moore.
On Christmas night, 1951, Harry T. and Harriette Moore celebrated not only Christmas as believers but their 25th wedding anniversary. That evening, a bomb (put in by the KKK - no arrests were ever made) went off in their house, eventually killing this couple.
This family was a target because Harry T. Moore was then with the Florida NAACP and was successful in registering African-Americans to vote. Florida had one of the highest levels of African-American registration because of this work. Both he and his wife worked also for equal pay for African-American teachers. Harry T. Moore was raised by a single mother whose husband died when Harry was nine. Harry T. Moore’s mother (Rosa Moore, seen below after her son’s murder) worked in many hard jobs - including laboring in cotton fields - to provide for the family and would live to see her son murdered and the hands of her son’s murderers washed clean.
The Moores were known to work with many in Florida for justice, including a fine gentleman and educator from Tampa named Garland Stewart, whose son Delano Stewart is still with us and tells stories of his parents working with the Moores for social justice.
In 1944, when young 15 year old Willie Howard was violently lynched near the Suwannee River for giving a love note to a white girl (whose father was a former State Representative), it was Harry T. Moore who traveled to this area (his hometown) to seek justice for the parents (again, no arrests would ever be made, and Moore would make lifelong enemies from this trip). Both of the Moores were educators who would be fired from their jobs and blacklisted because of their work with the NAACP. And he made an angry, bitter enemy for life in Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County, Florida in his work on the case of the Groveland defendants.
He was a man of rock solid courage. Imagine Harry T. Moore in 1945 traveling the desolate and dark country roads of Live Oak, Florida asking questions on murders and knowing that at any time, he could be beaten, tortured or killed in the dark of night.
On the night the Moores were murdered, the ambulance carrying them had to go outside of Mims for treatment because no county hospital or medical provider would treat Mr. and Mrs. Moore, African-Americans who were dying and who were hated by the establishment of Mims and Florida. And when a funeral was held, flowers had to be ordered from Miami because no local florist from Mims or any surrounding county would sell flowers for the funeral of these 2 civil rights martyrs. No flowers were given because these two were hated and nobody dared associate their name with the Moores.
If you are ever in Mims, Florida (which is maybe 45 minutes away from Orlando) please visit Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex where their home has been restored and there is a wonderful museum. You can talk to the wonderful workers there about the Moores. I visit once a year and always come away with new information.
From 1915-1950 Florida led the South in per capita lynchings. Incidents like this happened all the time in Florida. It was Jim Crow Florida and Harry T. Moore fought the system and was murdered with his wife.
By the way, Harry T. Moore’s replacement in the Fl. NAACP? Robert Saunders - of the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library fame (see his photo below). Mr. Saunders was a courageous WWII veteran who came from old Carter City in our Tampa and this June, 2021 will mark his 100th birthday. The area he grew up in is right next to Armature Works, and the home was demolished long ago and now has pavement over it.
Published October 22, 2020, by Tampa-Hillsborough Equal Justice Initiative Project Page.