In Black America Podcast: Harry T. Moore: A Truly Noble Leader
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Ben Green, author of Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr and the Moore’s second daughter, Evangeline Moore. In 1951, on Christmas night, Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette, had just finished celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when a bomb blew up their home in Mims, Fla. Moore died on the way to the hospital; his wife, died nine days later. It was the first assassination of a prominent civil rights leader, and was a spark that ignited the American civil rights movement.
In 1934, the couple together started the first NAACP chapter in Brevard County, Fla.
As first president of the Florida NAACP, Moore, called for an end to lynchings, organized African American citrus workers and traveled across Florida to register hundreds of African Americans.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore grew up in rural Florida at a time when there was no Civil Rights movement. Harry T. Moore was a shy, soft-spoken and studious man who along with his wife had been school teachers in Brevard County, Florida in the 1930′s until they lost their jobs in their efforts to get equal pay and equal educational opportunities for African Americans.
In the days that followed, the protests over the Moore’s deaths rocked the nation, with dozens of rallies and memorial meetings around the country. President Truman and Florida Governor Fuller Warren were inundated with telegrams and protest letters.
Baseball legend Jackie Robinson led a memorial service attended by 3,000 mourners in New York on January 5, 1952.
FBI agents investigated the bombing and interviewed a Klansman, Joseph Neville Cox, who had supposedly told a friend he did the bombing for $5,000. A day after agents interviewed Cox a second time, he committed suicide.
Two of the three other Klansmen identified in the killing died of natural causes the next year. In 1978, the last Klansman, Edward Spivey, reportedly admitted on his deathbed that he was there when the killings took place.