Mothers are the most-honored family members around the world for their selflessness and the love they give to their children. That’s why this year, NewsOne will provide a number of daily posts about Mothers until Mother’s Day. Enjoy!
Queen Mother Moore (pictured) was a die-hard civil right activist and Black nationalist who stood side-by-side with Jamaican-born scholar and Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey, supporting his “Back to Africa Movement.” Moore was also a hero to countless folks in her beloved Harlem community, where she fought for tenant rights and more solid education for its residents. Although her birth name was Audley Moore, she was renamed Queen Mother Moore by the Ashanti tribe in Ghana who gave her the honorary title on one of her many trips to the Motherland.
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She had a powerful voice that she used for speaking against the injustices that Black people suffered at the hands of this country that had literally turned its back on them. Moore was once quoted as saying, ”They not only called us Negroes, they made us Negroes, things that don’t know where they came from and don’t even care that they don’t know. Negro is a state of mind, and they massacred our minds.”
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Moore was born on July 27, 1898, in New Iberia, Louisiana, a town west of New Orleans. Moore’s grandmother was a slave, whose Mother was raped by her enslaver who happened to be a physician. Moore’s grandfather was lynched as his wife watched, and she was left to raise five children alone. To top that off, Moore lost both her parents before she reached fourth grade.
Moore was forced to enter the workforce after her parents died. At the time, New Orleans was a rough place for an orphaned young girl. Moore often talked about how the police in and around New Orleans used to routinely round up Black men for vagrancy if they were just standing on a corner talking. She also told how the police would raid restaurants and arrest all the Black men only to return later and rape the Black women.
It was around age 15 that Moore made the decision to jump into the struggle that she saw going on around her. Her decision turned into a lifelong search for answers about how to change things.
Marcus Garvey, who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914, moved to Harlem, New York, in 1916, where UNIA thrived. By now a formidable public speaker, Garvey spoke across America. He urged African Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa, their ancestral homeland, and attracted thousands of supporters. He also campaigned against lynching, Jim Crow laws, denial of Black voting rights, and racial discrimination.
His dynamism caught the eyes and ears of Moore.
Moore left Louisiana in the 1920s, and as soon as she arrived in Harlem, she immediately threw herself into the struggle there. She joined Garvey’s UNIA movement and became a leader until the movement collapsed in 1927.
Moore organized rent strikes against abusive landlords, came to the aid of domestic workers in New York City, and agitated for Black political representation, prisoner rights, and the integration of the armed forces. She joined the Communist Party in 1933, because it rallied around the idea of self-determination for Blacks.
Watch Queen Mother Moore talk about reparations here:
Moore ran as a Communist for New York’s state assembly in 1938, but left the party in 1950. In 1955, Moore helped to organize a campaign demanding that Blacks receive reparations for the travesties that they suffered in this country all the way back to the days of slavery. Moore also teamed up with controversial Black nationalist Malcolm X, joining his Organization of Afro-American Unity.
Moore was Bishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Judea. She is a founding member of the Commission to Eliminate Racism, Council of Churches of Greater New York.
In organizing this commission, she staged a 24-hour sit-in for three weeks.
She is also a founder of the African American Cultural Foundation, Inc., which led the fight against usage of the slave term “Negro.”
Moore led protests against the Apollo Theatre for showing racist shows. She helped organize CIO unions and the Work Progress Administration (WPA). She forced the WPA to employ Black women on sewing projects who were previously relegated to domestic work. Moore also led the fight to break Jim Crow policy in the Coast Guard and became the first Black stewardess to be hired.
She was arrested three times and even organized her fellow inmates: Moore was first cuffed during her struggle for defending the rights of Black children to use a public park pool without bringing along their birth certificates. The second time she was arrested for defending a peddler from arrest for selling tomatoes to support his seven little children. The final time, she was arrested for trying to register people to vote in Green County, New York.
Queen Mother Moore was present when former South African president Nelson Mandela came to New York in the summer of 1990, and she was one of only five invited female speakers to address the historical Million Man March in October 1995. By the time Moore was 97, she had outlasted a stroke, two mastectomies, and a broken hip.
The formidable warrior passed away of natural causes at age 99 on May 2, 1997, leaving one son, five grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Saluting Civil Rights Icon Julian Bond