Long before the Civil Rights Movement, two Brevard County educators, Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, dedicated their lives to fighting for equality.
Their efforts did not sit well with Brevard County of the Jim Crow era, and on the evening of Christmas Day in 1951, the couple paid the ultimate sacrifice when a bomb exploded under the bedroom of their little bungalow in Mims.
“The racism of the county was so extreme local florists refused to deliver flowers to their funerals because they were black, and the flowers had to be shipped from Miami,” said Sonya Mallard, the cultural center coordinator for the Moore Cultural Complex in Mims.
Although no one was ever charged with the crime, the world took note.
“It was the bomb heard around the world,” Mallard said.
The couple’s slaying, in a nation that prided itself as the world’s greatest democracy, made headlines around the globe.
“That kind of violent incident will be spread all over every country in the world, and the harm it will do us among the people of the world is untold,” warned Eleanor Roosevelt, a delegate at the time to the United Nations.
To ensure the legacy of the Moores is never forgotten, Brevard County opened the doors to the Moore Cultural Complex, officially the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park & Museum, in 2004 on 12 acres where the couple’s modest cottage once stood. The 5,000-square-foot museum houses historical exhibits, including a timeline of the Civil Rights Movement from the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, plus a reference library and conference center.
A replica of the Moore home stands on the site of the original house. The cottage, which looks inside as it did in 1951, is the centerpiece of the complex. Also included is a Walk of Freedom pathway, nature trails, twin reflecting pools, a reference library and a conference center.
The Moores were truly pioneers in civil rights. Harry not only launched Brevard’s first chapter of the NAACP in 1934, but he also coordinated chapters of the organization throughout the state. In 1941, he became president of the Florida Conference of NAACP branches. The Florida Progressive Voters’ League he founded in 1945 helped register more than 100,000 black voters in Florida, one of the highest levels in the country.
The couple’s fight for equal pay for black teachers got them fired. Their advocacy against racial violence and injustice got them murdered.
“They were the first martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement,” Mallard said.
Admission to the Moore Cultural Complex at 2180 Freedom Ave. in Mims is free. Tours can be booked at harryharriettemoore.org.