Today, our featured Black Educator is Harry T. Moore.
Harry T. Moore, like many Black educators in the Hall of Fame, put his life on the line for the equal rights of Black people. Moore was born in Florida on November 18, 1905. Nicknamed “Doc” because of his good grades at Florida Memorial College high school program. At 19, he accepted a teaching job at an all-Black school (Titusville) in Cocoa, Florida, where he met his wife, Harriette Sims.
Moore eventually became the principal of the Titusville school, an all-Black school focused on providing educational justice for their students. In addition to being an educator, Moore was an activist, launching the Brevard County NAACP in 1934 and with the backing of Thurgood Marshall, filed the first lawsuit in the Deep South to equalize the teaching salaries of Black and white teachers. Although the case was dismissed, it became the foundation for future successful suits throughout the United States for the same cause. Moore’s activism didn’t end with fighting on behalf of Black teachers.
Like the great educator that he was, he both taught young people and used his activism to make the world fairer for them. Moore, channeled his activism through the NAACP. He protested segregated schools, the disenfranchisement of Black people, and even more dangerous, police brutality and lynchings. Sadly, Black teacher activism is/was looked at as a threat and often, attempts were made to silence them. Moore’s activism costs him his job, but Moore was not deterred. As Dr. Chris Emdin often says, you can choose to do damage to Black children or the system itself. Moore chose to do damage to the system and transitioned to work for the NAACP full-time.
Like today’s Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown and DeJuana Thompson, Moore was responsible for registering voters. Due to a landmark case won by Thurgood Marshall, Moore successfully registered 116,000 Black Florida voters to the Florida Democratic Party from 1944 to 1950, representing nearly a third of all Black registered voters. Moore is also responsible for building the Florida NAACP at that time to a membership of 10,000 people.
Harry Moore used his platform to investigate lynchings as well as criminal prosecutions against Black people deemed unlawful and unfair, like the case of three Black men accused and convicted of raping a white woman. Due to Moore’s investigatory efforts that found evidence he levied against law enforcement, two of the three defendants had their convictions overturned by the Supreme Court. However, the county sheriff killed those two individuals whose convictions were overturned while transporting them to another hearing in court. Moore called for that sheriff’s dismissal and indictment. Weeks later, Moore and his wife were both murdered due to a bomb placed under their bed.
Moore died on the way to the hospital; Harriette died nine days later. They left behind two daughters. This murderous act of terrorism was waged against the Moores on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Many consider the Moores as the first martyrs of the organized Civil Rights Movement.
As educators, we can fall victim to the mentality that our job begins and ends at the school building; engaging in education beyond that window may become too costly. But education is costly. We often give of ourselves in various ways as educators. It’s wise to count the cost, but we mustn’t be cheap. Moore wasn’t cheap. He gave his life for the education and liberation of Black people.
Harry T. Moore, a member of our Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Harry T. Moore, visit the following site.