Harry T. Moore died the death of a hero. He is a martyr in the age-long struggles of the Negro people for full dignity and equality. His name must never be forgotten and his courageous deeds must ever be enshrined in our memories. His death must be avenged! The bomb which took the life of this fearless fighter for freedom, made a shambles of his home at Mims, Fla., and placed his wife at death's door in a hospital 40 miles away, has shaken the peace and tranquility of every Negro household in the United States.
There can be no mistaking the meaning of this event. The murder of Harry Moore was a lynching of a special kind. It was a political assassination. Its aim was to short-circuit the growing clamor for votes and justice in the South by beheading those who are brave enough to demand their rights or strong enough to lead the organized mass movement. In 1948 Maceo Snipes and Isaiah Nixon both gave their lives to Georgia mobs because they sought to exercise the right to vote.
In South Carolina, Albert Hinton, NAACP state president, was kidnapped, and John McCray, head of the Progressive Democratic Party, was framed on a trumped-up libel charge-because of their leadership in the voting movement.
Only last month in Opelousas, LA, John L. Mitchell was shot in cold blood by a deputized bandit because he had dared sue for his right to be registered as a voter.
Now the dastardly assassination of Moore comes as a threat to every Negro man and woman in the land: Give up your efforts to be full citizens! Despair in your hopes to vote and hold office in the South! Remain a people apart, inferior in status, despised and trampled upon — or we will blow you all to Kingdom come!
Shall we accept this verdict of Klansmen? Shall we permit the ferocious attack of these 20th century barbarians to blunt the edge of our common strivings? No, we cannot! We should not be true to ourselves, our forefathers, or the memory of Harry Moore if we did!
The need of the hour is for thousands of Harry Moores to rise and take the place of the fallen one. From the colleges and schools of the South, from the plantations and country districts, from the mines,mills and factories, new fighters for full freedom must take our brother's death as the signal for their unending dedication to their people's needs.
The need of the hour is for resistance to the lynchers, an end to the spilling of our precious blood! The need is for a demand that will ring out in every home in the United States and resound around the world: Death to the assassins of Harry Moore and to the lyncher-sheriff McCall who killed Samuel Shepard in cold blood! Ban the Ku Klux Klan and smash this odious conglomeration of un-American bandits to smithereens!
Indemnify the bereaved families of the lynch victims!
Impeach Fuller Warren, whose conduct as governor is hostile to the interests and liberties of a majority of the people of Florida!
Guarantee, through the exercise of federal power, the unrestricted enjoyment of every constitutional privilege by all Negro people in every part of the United States!
Has the time not come for an unequivocal declaration of unremitting war against Jim Crow by the Negro people joined together in an all-embracing unity? To be sure, it has. We shall not be forever turned from our duty by the slanderous characterizations of our common foe or by real political differences among ourselves.
What better time than now to plan for a great convocation of the leaders of the Negro people on February 14, the birthday of the immortal Frederic Douglass, to be held in the nation's capital or in a major Southern city? There, the bishops and ministers of our churches, leaders of our fraternal life, spokesmen for women and youth, labor leaders and political figures could plan a common action for freedom.
Setting our politics aside, inseparably bound — by what so urgently unites us — our common peril — we Could give needed hope and inspiration to the rising masses of our people, guidance to our next tasks, and pause to the enemy within the gates. This, to me, is the first lesson of the murder of Harry T. Moore. It is a challenge to all Negro leadership. The masses look to see who will be the first to answer.
Copyright © Paul Robeson, 1952.