Academic journal article The Journal of Negro History

Harry Tyson Moore: A Soldier for Freedom

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro History

Harry Tyson Moore: A Soldier for Freedom

Article excerpt

On Christmas day 1951, Harry Tyson Moore, executive secretary of the Florida NAACP branches, and his wife Harriette held a family reunion to celebrate Christmas and the Moores' wedding anniversary in Mires, Florida. Their twenty-three-year-old daughter Annie, Moore's mother, Rosa, and his wife's brother, Master Sgt. George Simms, who had just returned from Korea, sat down with them to a ham and turkey dinner. Because Annie's sister, Evangeline, had been delayed in arriving from Washington, D.C., where she has a government job, the Moores decided to leave their gifts unopened until Evangeline arrived. It had been a long and happy day and the Moores had also decided to turn in early for bed. Annie flicked off her bedroom light at 10:10 p.m. on Christmas night. Her parents followed at 10:15 p.m.

At 10:20 p.m., a bomb went off with a deafening explosion. Master Sgt. George Simms heard the explosion. He found Moore lying on his mattress motionless, which with him had been blown into the cottage yard. He saw Moore bleeding from the mouth, and "He didn't feel like there was an unbroken bone in his body." Moore's wife Rose was wounded, dazed and screaming. Simms had to drive Moore and his wife thirty miles to the nearest hospital in Sanford. Moore died shortly after they arrived at the hospital. His wife, however, lingered on for four days and died on January 3, 1952.(1) Time magazine recounts Moore's mother's remarks:

"I tried to get him to quit the NAACP, thinking something might happen to him some day," Moore's mother told investigators. "But he told me: 'I'm trying to do what I can to elevate the Negro race. Every advancement comes by the way of sacrifice. If I sacrifice my life or health, I still think it is my duty for my race.'"(2)

Harry Tyson Moore was born in Houston, Florida (Suwannee County), a small town near Live Oak, on November 18, 1905, almost a decade after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which solidified the legalization of "separate but equal." His parents, Stephen John and Rosalea Alberta Moore, lacked formal education. But they encouraged their son to get an education: "Fight as hard as you can in this world for your rights and get the best education you can. And always, no matter what else happens, respect the rights of other people." Moore attended high school in several cities, including Houston, Daytona Beach, and Jacksonville, and graduated from Florida Memorial College in Live Oak in 1925. He majored in education and later taught in Houston, Titusville, Cocoa Beach, and Mims, Florida. He received his bachelor's degree in the summer of 1951 from Bethune-Cookman College.

Moore, a shy and quiet man, was guided by a determination to make a better life for himself and for all African Americans. He came to Mims, a small town in Brevard County, located between Daytona Beach and Titusville, in 1925. The population in Mims, about 1500, was equally divided between blacks and whites. Most of the town's population worked in surrounding citrus groves, and Mims also served as a truck stop along U.S. Route 1.(3)

Moore taught 5th and 6th graders and was the principal at the black elementary school in Mims. He later became superintendent of the Brevard County Negro High School. During his career as an educator in the Brevard County School System, Moore observed and experienced the severe inequities in the public education of African Americans. The striking contrast between black and white teachers' salaries, often as great at 50 percent, underscored this disparity.

Moore became interested in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the 1930s; perhaps due to the organization's legal campaign against these educational inequities. By 1934 Moore had organized the Brevard County Branch of the NAACP and became its first president.(4) At the same time Moore petitioned the national office to establish a state conference of branches which would provide a statewide network for black activists. …

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