I wrote about Harry T. Moore and Harriette Moore in â€śIt was never about a hot dog and a Coke!â€ť (pages 34-35). They took courage to another level and paid the ultimate price for standing up for what the believed. Unfortunately, very few Blacks or whites know of Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriette…and that they are the first husband and wife to give their lives for the Struggle. Their lives and what they stood for should be etched in the annals of American History.
Noted journalist Tonyaa Weathersbee wrote the following piece in Blackamericaweb.com.
â€śChristmas of 1951 was anything but a season of peace for Evangeline Moore. And sheâ€™s still looking for peace today.
That was when Moore, who was 21 at the time, arrived home after a marathon train ride from Washington, D.C. to Mims, Florida to learn that her father, civil rights and NAACP leader Harry Moore, had been killed in an explosion on Christmas Day. Her mother, Harriette, had been severely injured â€“ and she died nine days later.
Moore’s parents â€“ the only husband and wife to die in the civil rights struggle â€“ are viewed by many as the movementâ€™s first martyrs. Harry Moore, in fact, put himself on the fast track to martyrdom when, among other things, he confronted Floridaâ€™s white power structure about lynchings.Â That took some serious intestinal fortitude.
Lynchings assured white people that they not only didn’t have to worry about lowly black people robbing them of their belongings, but that they also didn’t have to worry about uppity black people robbing them of their assumptions of privilege. Florida, in fact, had the most lynchings per capita between 1900 and 1930, and 61 black people were lynched in the state between 1921 and 1946.
Harry Moore didn’t sit and wait for the white power structure to come to Jesus about those injustices. He wrote letters demanding that they stop the killings, and even went as far as to investigate the lynchings himself.
Moore’s defiance of the social order is what lit the blast that killed him and his wife. “The whole course of my family’s history changed when they killed my parents,” Moore, who is now 81, told The Washington Post. “I wonâ€™t stop until someone is held accountable.”
But that could prove tough. The Justice Department recently closed the case because it believes the killers are dead. And to me, it’s one more reminder of how, for some reason, time and inconvenience always seems to get in the way of justice for black people.
I think of how now, while no black people are being killed today for fighting for civil rights in the way that Harry Moore did, many have to fight for their rights after being wrongly convicted.
And many are being convicted mostly by people who tend to see them as criminals first and citizens second â€“ the same way that they did back in the days when Harry Moore was crusading against lynchings.
I think of people like Alan Crotzer, now 50, who spent 24 years of his life behind bars in Florida after being wrongfully convicted of rape, kidnapping and robbery in 1981. Two of the victims, who happened to be white, misidentified him.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Crotzer was freed by DNA evidence. He had to fight to get the state Legislature to give him $1.25 million in 2008 to compensate him for his lost years.
Crotzer wouldn’t get that now. After his case, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law which compensates the wrongfully convicted $50,000 a year for each year they spent behind bars â€“ but only if they’ve had no prior felony convictions.
Crotzer had one. And that’s a loophole crafted by white politicians not on behalf of justice, but of convenience.
There may not be much that Moore can do to get the Justice Department to revisit her parents’ case. But she told the Post that she wants more recognition for them.
And those who run the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama don’t have to be saddled by time and inconvenience to help Moore do that. Moore said they told her they can’t include her parents’ names on the memorial because they were killed before the modern civil rights movement began in 1954 â€“ after the Brown decision. But I think they ought to make an exception.
If anything, the memorial ought to commend martyrs like the Moores for being ahead of their time, not exclude them because they donâ€™t fit a timeline.
Having her parents’ names on the memorial might bring Moore a bit of peace. And after losing them to violence at Christmastime 60 years ago, that might be her greatest holiday present everâ€ť.
The Struggles Continues….Rodney