Before His Time:

The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore,
America's First Civil Rights Martyr

by Ben Green

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Hardcover - 304 pages (April 1999) Free Press; ISBN: 0684854538
List Price: $25.00


Review (From Kirkus Reviews , February 1, 1999)

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 tried, or so the story went, to 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.


The moving, true story of the still-unresolved murder of Harry T. Moore, killed in a Christmas Day bombing of his home in 1951, is an important rediscovery of a lost chapter in civil rights history; photos.

-- Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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