Justice at last: Brevard School Board acknowledges unjust firing of civil rights leaders

Students will learn about couple starting next year

Civil rights pioneer Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriette, are shown in this undated file photo released by the attorney general's office in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2005. (AP Photo/Office of Attorney General Charlie Crist)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – In 1946, the civil rights activism of Brevard County educators Harry and Harriette Moore took their jobs. In 2021, it gave them back.

Nearly 70 years after their murders, the Brevard County School Board on Tuesday passed a resolution officially recognizing the unjust firings of the Moores — a pair of early Black civil rights leaders often called the movement’s “first martyrs” — and posthumously declaring them “Brevard Public Schools Teachers Emeritus,” News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

“The Brevard County Public School Board publicly acknowledges the unjust act of refusing to renew Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore’s teaching contracts by the serving School Board of 1946, and will forever recognize the Moores for their outstanding service and significant contributions ... to the Brevard County School District, State of Florida and the nation,” the resolution read.

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Harry Moore, a principal at an all-Black Mims elementary school, and his wife Harriette Moore, a teacher, were let go in the summer of 1946 after warnings from school board members for Harry Moore to cease his political activities on behalf of oppressed Blacks across Florida.

The motion, which passed at Tuesday’s school board meeting by unanimous vote, represents the first time in 75 years the board has formally acknowledged the reasons behind its failure to renew the Moores’ contracts.

The resolution followed months of talks and lobbying by the Brevard Federation of Teachers and the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex.

“There truly is no better way to celebrate Black History Month than with the signing of this proclamation recognizing these local civil rights heroes,” said teachers union President Anthony Colucci.

“The recognition of this unjust firing was essential. It is essential to recognize the injustices of the past to solve systemic issues of the present and future,” Colucci said at the meeting.

The resolution also proclaims intent to implement a special curriculum on the Moores that will be taught in Brevard elementary and secondary schools, as well as a field trip for all 8th grade students the Moore Cultural Complex in Mims, pending funding and the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Classes on the Moores will begin next school year, the resolution said.

“Year after year, we’ll learn about the Moore’s character, accomplishment and the work they courageously did to advance civil rights in our community, state and country (and) Brevard County will be a better place for it,” Colucci said.

Before the resolution passed, School Board Vice Chair Matt Susin, an early supporter of the push to reinstate the Moores, took a moment to recognize the teachers union and the Moore Complex for their efforts.

“As a former teacher who brought children from Space Coast (High School) to the Moore Center and someone who wrote his senior thesis at Florida State a decade before on Harry T. Moore, ... I want to say thank you for being through, doing this,” Susin said.

A celebration of the resolution and formal ceremony is planned for Wednesday evening at the Moore Complex, 2180 Freedom Ave in Mims, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tours of the Moore museum at the complex are available starting at 4:15 p.m.

From 1934 to their deaths in 1951 — the result of a bomb planted beneath the floor of their Mims home on Christmas night — Harry Moore worked relentlessly to improve the lives of Blacks in the Jim Crow-era South.

He founded the Brevard County NAACP in 1934 and spent the next 15 years starting or aiding nascent chapters in towns across the state. In 1937, in consultation with the legendary civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, he filed a lawsuit against the Brevard School Board for equal pay for Black teachers, the first of its kind in the Deep South.

In the 1940s, Moore personally investigated reported lynchings, filed lawsuits for equal voting access for Blacks and founded Florida’s Progressive Voter League, which went on to amass one of the most powerful Black voting blocs in the country.