Central Florida activist leaders nominated for posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom

Harry T. and Harriet V. Moore helped more than 116,000 Black Floridians register to vote

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriet, were activists at the forefront of the civil rights movement who helped more than 116,000 African Americans register to vote in Central Florida.

Seventy years after their deaths, they’re being nominated for the highest civilian award in the nation.

“To receive an honor like this completely out of the blue — it was really a shock,” Darren Pagan, great-grandson of the Moores, said. “I think it’s a bright light during you know, somewhat of a dim time.”

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Pagan said he wished his grandmother — one of the Moores’ daughters — could be present but she passed in 2015.

“It’s certainly one of those moments where I know she’s looking down — incredibly proud you know. (I) wish that she could’ve been here to celebrate with us,” the 30-year-old said via Zoom from Maryland.

The nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom came at the request of Rep. Charlie Crist through a letter to President Joe Biden. Crist is also seeking the Democratic nomination in Florida’s gubernatorial race.

“To see the letter and kind of see the words that he was able to put to paper — that this is something that he really so strongly believed in — it really meant a lot,” Pagan said.

News 6 spoke with Crist about the importance of this recognition.

“The push for civil rights, human rights, voting rights never ends and that’s why this is so vitally important,” Crist said. “I think this recognition that they deserve and that this was born out of Brevard County — local people that tried to do so much for so many people.”

An important moment for Sony Mallard, the cultural center coordinator at the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Memorial park in Mims.

“Not only were they freedom fighters but they understood the importance of the right to vote. They understood the importance of injustices. So this is gonna shine a light on Central Florida, our great state of Florida, on the Moores’ legacy,” Mallard said.

But the Moores’ quest for social justice and equality came with death threats.

“He was a man that understood the target on his back but more importantly as an educator, a civil rights activist, he knew that he would have to make the ultimate sacrifice with his life for the freedoms that we have today,” Mallard said.

Their lives tragically ended on Christmas 1951 when their home was bombed.

“Everything happens in the right time. I believe that yes, of course, they should have had recognition a long time ago, right? However, I am so grateful and thankful that the time is now. That we will not miss this mark in history,” Mallard said. “I would like for today’s generation to take away from these stories that one person can make a difference.”

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.