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Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America's First Civil Rights Martyr Paperback – February 19, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Before graduate student Mike King began using his given name, Martin Luther, before Detroit Red changed his name to Malcolm X, and before Medgar Evers joined the NAACP, civil rights activist Harry T. Moore was murdered. On Christmas night, 1951, an explosion ripped through his house, the bomb having been planted directly under his bed. His mother, visiting for the holidays, had been very concerned for Moore's safety. In the 1950s, in the Deep South, Moore's political activism had earned him plenty of enemies. "Every advancement comes by way of sacrifice," he told his mother before going to bed that night. "What I am doing is for the benefit of my race."

In the 1930s and '40s, Moore drove the roads of Florida, organizing the local NAACP, speaking quietly against Jim Crow laws, and urging blacks to register to vote. He also wrote elegantly argued letters to the governor and other public officials, protesting injustices and atrocities against blacks. Seen as a troublemaker, Moore became entangled with Willis McCall--whom author Ben Green calls "the prototype of the racist Southern sheriff." Green intertwines the biographies of these two very different men, drawing a picture of racial tension in an era before the issues reached national attention. Green is especially good at capturing the atmosphere of the events--dense fogs, sticky heat, clouds of biting insects--but goes slightly astray when listening to drunken former Klansmen, who are perhaps merely seeking their 15 minutes of fame and not unburdening their souls before they die, as they spout confessions about Moore's murder. Like many biographers, Green clearly admires his subject, which makes him write slightly purple prose. Moore's life, however, was clearly admirable and Green has written a moving tribute to this sadly forgotten man. --C.B. Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A fascinating chronicle that fills in an important but often overlooked gap in the early civil rights movement's history. Long before Martin Luther King became a national civil rights leader, Harry T. Moore crisscrossed the buggy marshes of Florida, devoting himself to helping African-Americans learn their constitutional rights. Almost singlehandedly responsible for creating and then expanding the Florida NAACP, Moore fought against unequal pay, unfair voting procedures, and other discriminatory practices, frequently working without pay and usually only after first putting in a full day of teaching. He raised hell when black men were lynched, demanding that these deaths be investigated years after their cases were considered closed. Perhaps the most famous was the Groveland case, in which four young black men were found guilty of assaulting a young white couple and raping the wife. Two of the men were later killed after they triedor so the story wentto escape from the sheriff who was transporting them. Like King after him, Moore lost his life to the cause when he was murdered in 1951 by a bomb planted in his modest home; the crime, while unsolved, was thought by some to be the work of the Ku Klux Klan. Green (The Soldier of Fortune Murders: A True Story of Obsessive Love and Murder-for-Hire, 1992) admirably details Moore's life of sacrifice and that of his nemesis, Willis McCall, a southern sheriff whose hatred of blacks spurred him to violence against them, mostly without retribution. (McCall, investigated 49 times by the FBI, was never found guilty.) Although Green outlines Moores battles with the NAACP, this aspect of the book could have been improved with a more detailed analysis of why Moore has been largely forgotten after his death, especially as the movement shot forward beginning in 1954, with the Brown v. Board of Education decision. A tribute to the hard work and dedication of a forgotten hero in the battle for civil rights. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; Reissue edition (February 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081302837X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813028378
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Having moved to Brevard County in 1991, just when the Harry T. Moore murder case was back in the news, and the fact that I pass the Moore Justice Center every day, I was anxious to learn about Harry T. Moore and happily picked up a copy of this book.
Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriette were murdered on Christmas Day, 1951 when a bomb exploded beneath their bedroom at their home in Mims, Florida. At the time of his murder, Harry Moore was the Florida coordinator for the NAACP and a founder of the Progressive Voter's League. As the title of book implies, Harry Moore was before his time, including his murder. Remember this happen before Rosa Parks, before Medgar Evers, before Dr. Martin Luther King and before Brown vs. Board of Education. The murderer of the Moores has never been found.
Green traces the life of Harry Moore from childhood to teaching to his efforts in helping to lead the Civil Rights movement in Florida. Along the way Harry Moore instructed his students how to use the ballot, before African-Americans could vote and Harry Moore's efforts in the investigations of violence (re: lynching) and murders of African Americans in Florida.
The most famous case that Harry Moore investigated was the Groveland Incident. The case involved the conviction of three African-Americans in the rape of a 17-year-old woman and the subsequent killing of two of the suspects by the Sheriff of Lake County Florida, Willis McCall, in an escape attempt. All the while, Harry Moore was fighting with the NAACP national organization to retained his position in the organization.
Green's biography of Harry Moore is sparse, though a lot of it could be contributed to lack of documents related to Harry Moore's life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A lot more people worked and sacrificed for civil rights before the 1960's than most of us realize. One very successful leader was Harry T. Moore, with his wife Harriette, from Mims, Florida.

Harry and Harriette were leading human rights activists in Brevard County, in Florida, and in the nation. They organized the first Brevard County Branch of the NAACP in 1934, and he led the Florida organization and the fight for equality and justice until their deaths. As executive secretary of the Progressive Voters League, he helped break down registration barriers and was responsible for the registration of tens of thousands of black Americans throughout Florida.

They were murdered in their home in Mims when a bomb was exploded under their bedroom on Christmas evening, 1951, their 25th wedding anniversary. It was the first killing of a prominent civil rights leader, and was a spark that ignited the American civil rights movement.

Harry T. Moore is remembered by his students for his dignity, his determination, his compassion, his discipline, and the great value he placed on education. He is remembered by those with whom he worked, as a gentleman of learning, ethics, courage and persistence; who had a deep appreciation for the values that make America great.

This is their story.
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Format: Hardcover
As a Florida native, I feel Green well captured Harry Moore's Florida. Before His Time is educational, enteraining, and most importantly disturbing. We need to know in detail not only what Moore did but what ws done to Moore - and why. Green tells us. Despite the many horrors depicted in the book - and there are many - the book is ultimately life affirming: it is good to know that there were (are?) some Harry T. Moore's who have walked among us. Bravo, Ben Green.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this Book. I wished I had been able to read something like it ten years ago. I had never heard of Harry T. Moore. Now, this is a much read History Book. One cannot understand The History of Black Civil Rihgts if this Book is left out of the reading list. A good complement would be: The Skin Color Syndrome Among African-Americans, by William A. James, Sr.
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What a tragedy and a loss to America ... the richness of the mind of this man and his wife. I read snippets at a time so that I can digest all of its meaning. How much longer will America ignore its true history?
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