Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What Harry & Harriet Moore Did For Florida

Florida civil rights hero Harry T. Moore is not known by many. In 1934, Moore started the first NAACP in Brevard County, Florida. Moore continued to foster the growth of the NAACP. In 1941, the NAACP held it's first state conference.

Moore began taking greater risks for racial equality. Moore wrote a protest letter to Governor Spessard Holland over the lynching of Cellos Harrison. Moore personally investigated the lynching of Willie James Howard.

In 1945, Moore and his wife Harriet were fired from their teaching jobs. The reason was their political activism. He quickly rebounded and became the paid executive secretary of the Florida Conference of the NAACP.

In 1947, Moore lobbied against the white primary bill. Moore wrote a public letter to inform people about the bill.

Mims, Fla. May 18, 1947

Fellow Citizens:

The Florida State Senate has passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to pass a literacy test in order to qualify for voting This bill says that "no person who cannot read any paragraph of the Constitution of the United States or the State of Florida shall be qualified for voting in any election ---".

Senator John E. Mathews of Duval County is the author of this bill. Senator Mathews, as you know, seems to be very anxious to keep somebody from voting. Instead of trying to make it possible for a larger number of citizens to enjoy the fundamental rights and privileges of democracy, Senator Mathews is trying desperately to restrict the number that can enjoythese rights. His main "white primary" bill was decisively defeated in the Senate, but he has managed to get his second bill through the Senate by a narrow margin. Senator Carl Gray has appropriately branded this second measure as a "white primary bill with another suit of clothes on".

Our boys who served in the armed forces did not have to read any paragraph of the Constitution in order to help defend their country. Citizens do not have to read the Constitution in order to pay taxes to support the Govenment. Why, then, is it so necessary that a citizen be forced to read any part of the Constitution before he can help to select those officials who are to govern him and spend his tax money?

This bill exposes prospective voters to too much discrimination. One applicant might be given a very easy paragraph to read; while another applicant, whose vote is not desired, might be asked to read a much more difficult paragraph. It is dangerous to let one official in a county or precinct, to decide who shall vote and who shall not vote.

This bill is now in the House of Representatives. Let us do everything possible to arouse opposition to this dangerous measure. You should immediately wire or write your Representatives and urge them to vote against the Mathews Bill that would require voters to pass a literacy test. Encourage other citizens to do the same thing. Churches, lodges, clubs and other organizations should send telegrams urging the defeat of this bill.

Yours for democracy in Florida
(signed by Harry T. Moore)
Harry T. Moore, Executive Secretary

1. Florida State Conference, NAACP
2. Progressive Voters' League of Florida

The NAACP had grown to 10,672 members by December of 1947.

Moore's life became more complicated. He was forced to step down from his paid position in the NAACP. Donald Byrd successfully did "a hatchet job."

Moore helped the accused men of the Groveland case. Sheriff Willis McCall shot Groveland defendants Walter Irvin and Sammy Shepard in transport. Both were handcuffed. McCall said they were attempting to escape. Moore demanded McCall's suspension.

Christmas Day, 1951, Harry and Harriet Moore's house was bombed. Both were killed. The day was their 25th wedding anniversary.

Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that a briefcase with over a 1,000 letters have been found.

The documents found in a vacant barn last November will have no bearing on the closed cased, McCollum said. He delivered the find to Evangeline Moore, the 76-year-old daughter of the two black activists who were the first killed during the modern civil rights struggle.

Evangeline Moore was 21 at the time of the killings. She said she suffered memory loss due to the trauma of the bombing and has been unable to remember her childhood and parts of her early adulthood.

''I have looked through some of the copies of this material and, in fact, it has given me my life story,'' said Moore, who said she found several newspaper photos and articles about her own involvement in the civil rights movement.

Those letters are one of the few things Evangeline Moore has to remember her parents. Others should remember Harry and Harriet Moore, as well.


At April 12, 2009 2:06 PM , Anonymous Diane Kostuk said...

What a wonderful story and couple! Their bravery and intelligence have helped many throughout the 20th century and continues today. Let us remember these unknown heroes.



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