Seventy years ago, on Christmas Day, Harry T. & Harriette Moore celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary before their home was bombed. “He surprised her with a cake, and they danced together on that evening,” says Sonya Mallard, Cultural Coordinator of the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park & Museum. Mallard shared the captivating story with me over a week ago. Listening to her articulate the story of the night of the lynching, you can hear the passion for the Moores.
Harry and Harriette Moore were activists, advocators, and by profession, educators. As graduates of Bethune-Cookman College, they were elementary school teachers who met and married a year later on Christmas Day 1926. They settled together in Mims, Florida, a small citrus town near Orlando, Florida. Harry T. and Henrietta Moore’s educational career spanned from 1925 to 1946.
Education was not the only passion for the couple; they were fighting segregation in Florida, organizing the NAACP chapter of Brevard County, and were instrumental in registering over 116,000 blacks to vote in the State of Florida. In addition, Harry T. served as the head of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, advocating for injustice for blacks in Florida. Moore was also an advocate for the lynching in Florida, bringing attention to the injustice of the Groveland Four. The Groveland Four were four African American men lynched after being accused of assaulting a woman and her husband in 1949. Sidenote: In November 2021, Florida officially cleared the four young men who were wrongly accused.
On that Christmas night in 1951, a bomb exploded under the bedroom of Harry T. and Harriette Moore. “The sound was so loud, it could be heard from 4 miles away,” states Mallard.
Mr. Moore was killed instantly in the explosion, and Mrs. Moore died nine days later. Even more horrific is that there was no hospital in the area that would treat Mrs. Moore, nor an ambulance service, so she had to be rushed to a hospital in Sanford, Florida, by a private car to tend to her injuries. Later, FBI reports documented that individuals were watching the Moores that evening from a distance; the reports indicate cigarettes left in the area, which suggests someone was smoking before the bombing. At the time of the funerals for the Moores, no local florist would send flowers. Instead, flowers were sent from Miami, Florida, to honor their legacy at the services.
As the first true heroes and first genuine civil rights activists in the civil rights era in Florida, their legacy and story are now being told. As the author of the newly published book, Florida’s Historic African American Homes, the home of the Moores was one that I felt was integral to both Florida and African American History. Even more exciting is that you can visit a site that that has a replica of the bombed home. One of the most humanistic traits found in a person’s history is their home. Mallard explains, “You are transported back in time; when you walk in the home, you are in the “Moore” experience. The house is set up just like it was in the 1950s.”
Like many African American museums, cultural institutions, and historic sites continue to face challenges, the Moore site also faces some. Small staff size (Only two full-time staff members), finances, and new exhibitions are just a few challenges.
On the upcoming anniversary of the Moores’, I urge you to help share the Moores’ legacy, visit the site, and donate to the programming of the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex.
To learn more, visit: https://www.harryharriettemoore.org/
Photos courtesy of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex