MOORES' LEGACY STIRS ARC MEMBER'S THOUGHTS
By Larry Colleton, Ruling Elder, Washington Shores Presbytery and, Member, Anti-Racism Committee (ARC)
“BEFORE HIS TIME”
As the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) met via Zoom over the previous 16 months, many thoughts and more importantly many bible verses have come to me and caused me to pause. A pause to contemplate and discern. One such passage is Ephesians 6: 12. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
In the Central Florida Presbytery (CFP) Statement on Racial Injustice, racism is declared a sin. Specifically, a sin against God and against humanity. Further, it asserts that racism tells a lie about God and about what God intends for humanity because racism falsely claims that some are less than others.
In his book, “Before His Time”, author Ben Green describes the life of Harry T. Moore, a civil rights martyr who, along with his wife, Harriette, were assassinated by racists in December 1951. Moore was born in 1905 in Houston, Suwannee County, Florida. The book chronicles Moore’s life as a boy to leadership of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. It also tracks his establishment of the Progressive Voters’ League in the 1940’s.
Harry T. Moore’s life and legacy have been a major part of my thoughts as the Anti-Racism Committee developed the CFP Statement on Racial Injustice. Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore’s sacrifices have continued to be ever present with me during the Committee’s development of the following: a) policy and training on anti-racism for CFP; b) an Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) statement of support (due to increased attacks, including mass murder, on the AAPI community); and c) the drafting of a Mission Statement for the ARC.
Harry T. and Harriett V. Moore encountered what Ephesians enlightens and informs us about. Their struggle and that of the Black community and other marginalized communities at that time was against rulers and authorities. Those in elected positions on the local and state level in Florida did not see Blacks as equal to whites in any manner. Florida was not alone.
Regrettably, this was America’s view as well. Moore as leader of the Florida State Conference and the Progressive Voters’ League worked tirelessly for equal protection under the law, voting rights(over 100,000 Blacks had been registered) and equal pay for Black teachers.
On Christmas, 1951, the Moore’s 25th wedding anniversary, a bomb was planted under the Moore’s home--specifically under the bedroom of the Moores. Harry Moore died that night. His wife died on January 3, 1952 one day after the funeral of her husband.
In the four months leading up to his murder, Harry Moore was confronted with terror across the state of Florida. There had been a number of dynamite bombings that included a Black housing project, Jewish synagogues, Catholic churches, a new Black high school and an ice cream shop in Orlando that had refused to provide separate service windows for blacks and whites.
On November 6, 1951, Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County shot two handcuffed and shackled Black men, Sammy Shepherd and Walter Irvin (2 of the Groveland 4). Shepherd was killed but Irvin survived. Moore demanded that the Governor suspend Sheriff McCall and direct the Attorney General to investigate the shooting. Moore was dead seven weeks later.
In Micah 6:8, the question is asked as to what does the Lord require of us. The answer is a simple one—“to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.” This is what Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore did. Far too many Christians in their day remained silent and some were complicit in this state sponsored terrorism. Today, the ARC and the CFP have committed to act for racial justice, equality and respect for all people.
The poet Langston Hughes wrote this poem to honor and remember Harry T. Moore:
Florida means land of flowers.
It was on a Christmas night
In the state named for the flowers
Men came bearing dynamite …..
It could not be in Jesus’ name,
Beneath the bedroom floor,
On Christmas night the killers
Hid the bomb for Harry Moore
It could not be in Jesus’ name
The killers took his life,
Blew his home to pieces
And killed his faithful wife …
It seems that I hear Harry Moore.
From the earth his voice cries,
No bomb can kill the dreams I hold--
For freedom never dies!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7