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Learning Links: NAACP Celebrates 100 Years


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Published on: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

By Theresa Dudley

The Legacy of Harry T. and Harriette Moore

Harry T. Moore

Biographical sketch of Harry Moore

Harry T. Moore was born on November 18, 1905, in Houston (Hous-ton), Florida, a tiny farming community in Suwanee County, in the Florida Panhandle. He was the only child of Johnny and Rosa Moore. His father tended the water tanks for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and ran a small store in front of the house.

Johnny Moore's health faltered when Harry was nine years old, and he died in 1914. Rosa tried to manage alone, working in the cotton fields and running her little store on weekends, but in 1915, she sent Harry to live with one of her sisters in Daytona Beach. The following year, he moved to Jacksonville, where he spent the next three years living with three other aunts: Jesse, Adrianna, and Masie Tyson.

This would prove to be the most important period in his formative years. Jacksonville had a large and vibrant African American community, with a proud tradition of independence and intellectual achievement. Moore's aunts were educated, well-informed women (two were educators and one was a nurse), who took this spindly, intelligent boy into their house on Louisiana Street and treated him like the son they'd never had. Under their nurturing guidance, Moore's natural inquisitiveness and love of learning were reinforced.

After three years in Jacksonville, he returned home to Suwanee County, in 1919, and enrolled in the high school program of Florida Memorial College. Over the next four years, Moore excelled in his studies, earning straight As, except for one B+; he was even nicknamed "Doc" by his classmates.

In May 1925, at age 19, he graduated from Florida Memorial College with a "normal degree" and accepted a teaching job in Cocoa, Florida-- in the

Building a Family and a Career

Harriette Moore

He spent the next two years teaching fourth grade at Cocoa's only black elementary school. During his first year in Brevard County, he met an attractive older woman (she was 23, while he was barely 20), named Harriette Vyda Simms. She had taught school herself, but was currently selling insurance for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Within a year they were married.

Her family lived in Mims, a small citrus town outside of Titusville. The newlyweds moved in with Harriette's parents until they built their own house on an adjoining acre of land. Meanwhile, Harry had been promoted to principal of the Titusville Colored School, which went from fourth through ninth grades. He taught ninth grade and supervised a staff of six teachers.

In March 1928, their eldest daughter, Annie Rosalea, nicknamed Peaches, was born. When Peaches was six months old, Harriette began teaching at the Mims Colored School. On September 30, 1930, their "baby daughter," Juanita Evangeline, was born.

Moore Joins the NAACP

In 1934, Harry Moore started the Brevard County NAACP, and steadily built it into a formidable organization. In 1937, in conjunction with the all-black Florida State Teacher's Association, and backed by the NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall in New York, Moore filed the first lawsuit in the Deep South to equalize black and white teacher salaries. His good friend, John Gilbert, principal of the Cocoa Junior High School, courageously volunteered as the plaintiff. Although the Gilbert case was eventually lost in state court, it spawned a dozen other federal lawsuits in Florida that eventually led to equalized salaries.

By 1941, NAACP work had become Moore's driving obsession. In 1941, he organized the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, and soon became its unpaid executive secretary. He began churning out eloquent letters, circulars, and broadsides protesting unequal salaries, segregated schools, and the disenfranchisement of black voters.

Moore's Fight for Equal Rights

In 1943, he moved into an even more dangerous arena: lynchings and police brutality. At first, his protests were confined to letters to the governor, but he quickly threw himself directly into lynching cases, taking sworn affidavits from the victims' families and even launching his own investigations. From that point until his death, Moore investigated every single lynching in Florida.

In 1944, Thurgood Marshall won a major victory in the landmark Smith v. Allwright case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the "lily-white" Democratic Party primary was unconstitutional. Harry Moore immediately organized the Progressive Voters' League, and in the next six years, due primarily to his leadership, over 116,000 black voters were registered in the Florida Democratic Party. This represented 31 percent of all eligible black voters in the state, a figure that was 51% higher than any other southern state.

In June 1946, Moore paid a terrible price for his political activism, as he and Harriette were both fired from their teaching jobs. Realizing that he would be blacklisted from teaching, Moore took a bold step: he became a full-time, paid organizer for the Florida NAACP.

During his first two years, he built the Florida NAACP to a peak of over 10,000 members in 63 branches. In January 1949, however, the NAACP national office doubled annual dues from $1 to $2, and membership plummeted all over the country. Florida followed suit, dropping to 3,000 members in the next year. Moore and the national office began having increasing disagreements over his political activities and his full-time status.

Moore and the Groveland Rape Case

In July 1949, the Groveland rape burst upon the national scene, after four young black men were accused of raping a white woman. A white mob went on a rampage through Groveland's black neighborhood, and the National Guard had to be called out to restore order.

Once again, Moore threw himself into the case. After uncovering evidence that the Groveland defendants had been brutally beaten, Moore leveled those charges against the most notorious lawman in the country: Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County.

Groveland defendants Walter Irvin, Sammy Shepherd, and 16-year-old Charles Greenlee were convicted in 1949, and Irvin and Shepherd were sentenced to death. In April 1951, however, Irvin and Shepherd's convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court; Lake County immediately prepared to try them again. On November 6, 1951, while Sheriff McCall was driving two of the defendants, Walter Irvin and Sammy Shepherd, back to Lake County for a pre-trial hearing, he shot them, killing Shepherd and critically wounding Irvin. McCall claimed that the handcuffed prisoners had attacked him while trying to escape. Irvin claimed that McCall had simply yanked them out of his car and started firing. The shooting created a national scandal. Harry Moore began calling for McCall's suspension and indictment for murder.

The Murder of Harry T. Moore

Only six weeks later, on Christmas Day 1951, Moore himself was killed when a bomb was placed beneath the floor joists directly under his bed. Moore died on the way to the hospital; his wife, Harriette, died nine days later.

The protests over the Moores' 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.

In 1952 the FBI launched a massive investigation of their deaths and Ku Klux Klan activity in Central Florida. The investigation pointed toward three Klan members, one of whom committed suicide the day after a FBI interview. The investigation slowed down Klan activity, but led to no arrests. Four dead Klansmen were implicated in the murders. After three investigations, the most recent review having been closed August 2006, the case is closed but remains unsolved.

1909

On February 12th The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded by a multiracial group of activists, who answered "The Call," in the New York City, NY. They initially called themselves the National Negro Committee.

FOUNDERS

Ida Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villiard, William English Walling led the "Call" to renew the struggle for civil and political liberty.

1910

In the face of intense adversity, the NAACP begins its legacy of fighting legal battles addressing social injustice with the Pink Franklin case, which involved a Black farmhand, who unbeknowingly killed a policeman in self-defense when the officer broke into his home at 3 a.m. to arrest him on a civil charge. After losing at the Supreme Court, the following year the renowned NAACP official Joel Spingarn and his brother Arthur start a concerted effort to fight such cases.

1913

President Woodrow Wilson officially introduces segregation into the Federal Government. Horrified that President would sanction such a policy, the NAACP launched a public protest.

1915

The NAACP organizes a nationwide protest D.W. Griffiths racially-inflammatory and bigoted silent film, "Birth of a Nation."

1917

In Buchanan vs. Warley, the Supreme Court has to concede that states can not restrict and officially segregate African Americans into residential districts. Also, the NAACP fights and wins the battle to enable African Americans to be commissioned as officers in World War I. Six hundred officers are commissioned, and 700,000 register for the draft.

1918

After persistent pressure by the NAACP, President Woodrow Wilson finally makes a public statement against lynching.

1920

To ensure that everyone, especially the Klan, knew that the NAACP would not be intimidated, the annual conference was held in Atlanta, considered one of the most active Klan areas.

1922

In an unprecedented move, the NAACP places large ads in major newspapers to present the facts about lynching.

1930

The first of successful protests by the NAACP against Supreme Court justice nominees is launched against John Parker, who officially favored laws that discriminated against African Americans.

1935

NAACP lawyers Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall win the legal battle to admit a black student to the University of Maryland.

1939

After the Daughters of the Revolution barred acclaimed soprano Marian Anderson from performing at their Constitution Hall, the NAACP moved her concert to the Lincoln Memorial, where over 75,000 people attended.

1941

During World War II, the NAACP leads the effort to ensure that President Franklin Roosevelt orders a non-discrimination policy in war-related industries and federal employment.

1945

NAACP starts a national outcry when Congress refuses to fund their own Federal Fair Roosevelt Employment Practices Commission.

1945

Kerr v. Enoch Pratt Free Library argued by Charles H. Houston creating the " Kerr Principle". A Baltimore library refused to admit Louise Kerr to a training program because she was black. Not that it had anything against blacks, but its patrons did.  When Kerr launched a civil suit against the library alleging a violation of equal protection of the laws, the courts credited the library’s claim that it had no racist purpose, but Kerr still prevailed. The Kerr principle forced us to address when and why is the state responsible for enabling exclusive preferences, whether by an overextended applicable rule that assist them or by state inaction that fails to block them.

1946

The NAACP wins the Morgan vs. Virginia case, where the Supreme Court bans states from having laws that sanction segregated facilities in interstate travel by train and bus.

1948

The NAACP was able to pressure President Harry Truman to sign an Executive Order banning discrimination by the Federal government.

1951

December 25, Harry T. Moore was killed when a bomb was placed beneath the floor joists directly under his bed; his wife, Harriette, died nine days later.

1954

After years of fighting segregation in public schools, under the leadership of Special Counsel Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP wins one of its greatest legal victories in Brown vs. the Board of Education.

1955

NAACP member Rosa Parks is arrested and fined for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Noted as the catalyst for the largest grassroots civil rights movement, that would be spearheaded through the collective efforts of the NAACP, SCLC and other Black organizations.

1960

In Greensboro, North Carolina, members of the NAACP Youth Council launch a series of non-violent sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. These protests eventually lead to more than 60 stores officially desegregating their counters.

1963

After one of his many successful mass rallies for civil rights, NAACP's first Field Director, Medgar Evers is assassinated in front of his house in Jackson, Mississippi. Five months later, President John Kennedy was also assassinated.

1963

NAACP pushes for the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

1964

U.S. Supreme Court ends the eight year effort of Alabama officials to ban NAACP activities. And 55 years after the NAACP's founding, Congress finally passes the Civil Rights Act.

1965

The Voting Rights Act is passed. Amidst threats of violence and efforts of state and local governments, the NAACP still manages to register more than 80,000 voters in the Old South.

1979

The NAACP initiates the first bill ever signed by a governor that allows voter registration in high schools. Soon after, 24 states follow suit.

1981

The NAACP leads the effort to extend The Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. To cultivate economic empowerment, the NAACP establishes the Fair Share Program with major corporations across the country.

1982

NAACP registers more than 850,000 voters, and through its protests and the support of the Supreme Court, prevents President Reagan from giving a tax-break to the racially segregated Bob Jones University.

1985

The NAACP leads a massive anti-apartheid rally in New York.

1987

NAACP launches campaign to defeat the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. As a result, he garners the highest negative vote ever recorded for a 1989 Silent March of over 100,000 to protest U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

1989

Silent March of over 100,000 to protest U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have reversed many of the gains made against discrimination.

1991

When avowed racist and former Klan leader David Duke runs for US Senate in Louisiana, the NAACP launches a voter registration campaign that yields a 76 percent turn-out of Black voters to defeat Duke.

1992

The number of Fair Share Program corporate partners has risen to 70 and now represents billions of dollars in business.

1995

Over thirty years after the assassination of NAACP civil rights activist, Medgar Evers - his widow Myrlie, is elected Chairman of the NAACP's Board of Directors. The following year, the Kweisi Mfume leaves Congress to become the NAACPs President and CEO.

1997

In response to the pervasive anti-affirmative action legislation occurring around the country, the NAACP launches the Economic Reciprocity Program... And in response to increased violence among our youth, the NAACP starts the "Stop The Violence, Start the Love' campaign.

1998

Supreme Court Demonstration and arrests

2000 - Present Top

2000

TV Diversity Agreements. Retirement of the Debt and first six years of a budget surplus. Largest Black Voter Turnout in 20 years

2000

Great March. January 17, in Columbia, South Carolina attended by over 50,000 to protest the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag. This is the largest civil rights demonstration ever held in the South to date.

2001

Cincinnati Riots. Development of 5 year Strategic Plan.

Under the leadership of Chairman Bond and President Mfume, the NAACP continues to thrive, and with the help of everyone - regardless of race - will continue to do so into the next millennium...

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