harry_moore_research_web.jpg"Black History Month 2012"

MIMS — Christmas night 1951 had been filled with family visiting and celebration, and was winding to a close as civil rights champions Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore went to bed, leaving their visiting daughter known as “Peaches” to sit and read a bit.

Tired from her long day, Peaches — Annie Rosalea Moore — reached up and switched off her reading light a little while later. What happened next would shatter her world and end the Moores’ lifelong quest to advance the rights of blacks in Florida.

“Peaches read for a few minutes and when she turned out the light someone outside snuck up to the house and ignited the bomb. She felt the explosion and felt the house shake, but she didn’t know what was happening … she kept running through the house yelling something has happened to Dad.”

That report is from Peaches’ older sister Evangeline Moore, now 81. She had moved to Washington, D.C. for a job, and was preparing for the train trip home to join her sister and grandmother, who had already arrived at the Moores’ home when the bomb was ignited.

Before their death at the hands of four Apopka Ku Klux Klan members — never tried for the murders and themselves dead long before a state investigation identified them in 2006 — the Moores made significant strides to improve the plight of blacks throughout Florida.

Their story can be learned at Brevard County’s expanding cultural center named in their honor: the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park, on the site of their former home in Mims, Florida where an annual Moore Heritage Festival of the Arts & Humanities attracts hundreds each year.

The ninth such festival — which each year provides an educational and enjoyable day trip for families of all ethnicities from around the state — will be held April 17-21 at the park and other venues such as Brevard Community College.

A Living Legacy

Mr. Moore made a lasting impact on the Sunshine State that is finally gaining national recognition for having boldly preceded such civil rights giants as Medgar Evers, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex, is planning an exhibit highlighting the Moores’ accomplishments and offering a virtual tour of the memorial park in Mims, said Bill Gary, board president of the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports the park.

The exhibit will be a feature in a new museum dedicated to the African-American story and is slated to open in 2015, Gary said.

Harry Moore is credited with starting local chapters of the NAACP. He later served as that organization’s Brevard County president and president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. He also formed the Florida Progressive Voter’s League and served as its executive director.

Perhaps his most stunning accomplishment was to defy the white establishment’s Republican Party by signing up more than 100,000 black voters — as Democrats, Evangeline Moore said.

Moore also fought for and was successful in obtaining equal pay for black and white educators. On the way to becoming the first martyr of the Civil Rights Movement, he investigated every lynching in Florida that involved black people.

Amid the national and international outcry over the couple’s murder, and demonstrations at the United Nations, renowned poet Langston Hughes at a huge New York rally read in his Ballad of Harry Moore:

It could not be in Jesus' name, Beneath the bedroom floor, On Christmas night the killers
 Hid the bomb for Harry Moore.

The Moores’ story has gained recognition recently, thanks to the work of the memorial park and festival volunteers, books such as Ben Green’s Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr, and the PBS documentary, Freedom Never Dies: The Legacy of Harry T. Moore, narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

The story is about to become more accessible throughout the state through a new traveling exhibit designed by University of Central Florida history students under the guidance of Professor Robert Cassanello.

Students last year began to design the project that will educate others about an important part of Florida’s civil rights struggle, Cassanello said.

If You Go: 9th Annual Moore Heritage Festival of the Arts and Humanities
Events April 17-21 at the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park, 2180 Freedom Ave., and other Mims area venues:

April 17, 7 p.m.: “Evening with Evangeline” features a civil rights panel addressing today’s challenges, 435 Brevard Ave., Cocoa Village. Free admission.

April 19, 9 a.m.-noon: Educational Symposium, Brevard Community College, Titusville. Sessions for youth include a field trip to the Moore Memorial Park Cultural Center and Museum, the Moore Family Home replica, reflecting pool and gazebo. To be attended by local public school children. Sessions are open to the public.

April 20, 9 a.m. to noon.: Brevard Community College Melbourne Campus, Educational Symposium sessions for local schoolchildren. No tour included. Open to the public.

April 20, 6:30 p.m.: Festival Gala Awards Banquet, Holiday Inn Express — Space Coast Convention Center, 301 Tucker Ln., Cocoa. Ticket $50 required in advance.

April 21, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.: Moore Street Festival, Moore Memorial Park, 2180 Freedom Ave., Mims. Arts, crafts, food, health fair, music and more. For more information call 321-269-8256/321-269-5117 or email HHMFestival@aol.com