The Civil Rights Movement was a period in American history fraught with violent, internal strife. Assassinations weren’t necessarily common, but they happened often enough to public figures that it was becoming a national problem. As sad as that sounds, many people pushing for radical change were killed by political radicals wishing to keep things the same. This era of Civil Rights fought particularly prominently for the rights of African Americans. One of the many activists at that time, who also was killed, was Harry Moore and his wife Harriette.
On Christmas of 1951, this activist couple was just sliding into bed after a Christmas and anniversary celebration. Not a second later, an explosion rollicked the room and killed them both. Their death was neither immediate or simultaneous. Harry died mere hours after the explosion and his wife Harriette a few days later. In 1951, the Civil Rights Movement was in its early stages and had yet to see outright murders of prolific activists. The death of the Moore couple was the first of many in the long line of those who gave their lives for the rights of minority groups in America.
Eve of Mysterious Murder
It might not be surprising that the case for this murder would be “easier” to solve. The explosive was crudely constructed stick of dynamite and other explosive ingredients shoved beneath their floorboards of the bedroom. During the Civil Rights era, the American nation was no stranger to the rise of radical assassinations and of course this first case was no exception. The fact that Moore was a segregation activist, a hot topic at the time that threatened death to its followers, made it simple that Moore was not simply killed by a busted pipe in his bedroom. For Moore, it would seem obvious that someone who rallied against the racist Jim Crow laws would sooner or later gather a horde of radical enemies. This is especially the case for the Ku Klux Klan members. Naturally, such a case would ensure a trial. Suspects were rounded up and confessions were made. However, to this day, not an arrest was made. The murder of Harry T Moore remains unsolved.
This may sound odd. How, after 68 years, is this possible? There are many cases that go unsolved, certainly. However, there is evidence suggesting that specific members of the Ku Klux Klan were involved in the murders. Moore’s past certainly made him quite the target for radical white supremacists, given that he was involved in the case for African American rights since a young age and was a vocal member of the NAACP. Incurring white supremacists enemies along the way would come as no surprise. After his murder, the FBI decided to take over the investigation. From interviews to demonstrating a faux bombing in a reconstructed scenario of the murder, the FBI dug into the case full force.
A Complicated Case
Unsurprisingly, the FBI found evidence that the Ku Klux Klan had been involved. The terrorist group was prominent in the area where Moore lived, all across the state of Florida and this evidence came as no surprise. Klansmen were also prominent members of the local community and often kept their eye on Moore. By this time in the investigation, they uncovered two primary suspects. Tillman H. Belvin and Earl J. Brooklyn who were both active members of the Ku Klux Klan. Due to very specific leads from an informant that said these men were seen asking about the Moore’s home and going so far as to inquire about the houses’ floorplan, it seemed like this case was coming to a close.
From this point in the investigation, things started to go downhill. From the death of the two suspects to witnesses changing their claims or outright refusing to testify. The investigation deflated until 1978 when the investigation was once again opened. Edward L. Spivey testified that Joseph Neville Cox had committed the murder, planting the bomb in the house. Cox, after being suspected and interviewed many years prior, committed suicide. However, although Spivey was suspected of being with Cox when the bomb was planted, he was never prosecuted.
Afterward, this case was reopened several times: in 1991, in 2004, in 2008, and finally in 2011. All of the reopenings of the case led to the same result, that the four suspected men planted the bomb. The final case in 2011 failed. This reopening and closing of the same case only furthered the activists’ belief that white supremacists in the South will protect the perpetrators of those crimes at whatever cost. The Moores were the first in a litany of sacrifices for racial equality in the United States, a struggle which continues to some degree in the American South to this day. While this case was never properly solved, it leaves room for valid frustration from the African American community after struggling to get their voices heard, especially in the judicial system which in some states continues to be a problem. Although the perpetrators were well known in their respective communities, few would come forth and state the identities of the murderers. These investigations, starting in 1951 and continuing until 2011, set the stage for unfair trials.
The Civil Rights Movement was an essential and very necessary part of United States history — and many would argue that it’s still continuing today. Most of the world’s change often happens as a result of rallies, activism, and dedication to the cause of minority rights. Many lives were lost to defend the liberties of American minorities today, some of which continue to fight for those rights as we speak. The lives lost will not be forgotten, however, and those who got neither investigation into nor justice for their deaths while fighting for their rights live on in the hearts of today’s civil rights activists. Even if justice was not served, those who are alive today continue to enforce the fight for human equality in the American nation. Their death was never truly in vain.