BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – When you talk about the civil rights movement in Central Florida, you can’t exclude the story of Harry T. and Harriette Moore. For two decades, the Brevard County couple fought for racial equality, equal pay and voting rights.
More than 70 years after untimely deaths, their community continues to preserve their memory. A Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex in Brevard County was erected in their honor.
Not too far from the complex visitors can take a tour through a yellow replica house in Mims where the Moores were assassinated. Bill Gary, president of the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex, said the deaths of the Moores deaths is a sad reminder of the dark past of the Jim Crow South.
“Florida has a very unsavory history,” Gary said.
The Culture Center Coordinator of the complex said the Moores had two daughters and worked as educators. Harry Moore served as a principal at Titusville Colored School and his wife was a teacher.
During Harry Moore’s time as an educator, he fought for equal pay for teachers and filed lawsuits. His efforts in fighting segregation led to his termination.
“Obviously he was a man of courage,” culture center coordinator Sonya Mallard said.
While the Moores’ work was dangerous, it does not compare to the risks the couple ran when they challenged the Groveland Four rape case and their commitment to justice surrounding a number of lynchings.
“Harry T. Moore was the most hated Black man in the state of Florida,” Mallard said.
After losing his job, he became a full-time activist and became instrumental in getting Blacks to vote through the Progressive Voters League. Harry Moore accomplished this more than a decade before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“He understood the power of his pen and his voice, so he got over 116,000 Blacks registered and ready to vote,” Mallard said.
However, the painful and to some the most overlooked event in connection to Harry and Harriette Moore is how they died.
“He is just an ordinary man that said, ‘I’ve had enough and I’m going to make a change,’ and he made that change,” culture center leader Carshonda Wright said.
In 1951 a bomb planted beneath their bedroom exploded on Christmas Eve. Mallard said neighbors had to drive the couple nearly 30 miles away to Sanford because none of the local hospitals would treat Blacks. Harry Moore was pronounced dead when they arrived, Harriette Moore died nine days later.
“There wasn’t even a florist shop that would send flowers to Harry T. Moore’s funeral, the flowers had to be shipped all the way from Miami,” Mallard said.
Their murders were never solved and rumors swirled that it was likely the work of the KKK. Justice was never enforced
“From the very beginning there was a reluctance on the part of top officials in the FBI not to upset people on the south by going overboard to find the killers of this ‘negro organizer,’ as he was called,” Gary said.
Despite the Moores’ killers never being brought to justice, the bombing that day couldn’t destroy their work that lives on today.
“I’m proud to say that we’re a voting polling place now, people come here to vote, so they killed the man but they didn’t kill his dream,” Mallard said.
Harry and Harriette Moore are recognized as the only husband and wife to be killed in the civil rights movement.