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Narratives of FreedomBefore His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore,
America’s First Civil Rights Martyr
By Ben Green
University Press of Florida, 2005
320 pp., $19.95 paperback ISBN: 081302837X

Before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached from his pulpit in Montgomery, before Rosa Parks’ famous bus ride, a man named Harry T. Moore toiled in Jim Crow Florida on behalf of the NAACP and the Progressive Voters’ League. For 17 years, in an era of official indifference and outright hostility, the soft-spoken but resolute Moore traveled the back roads of the state on a mission to educate, evangelize and organize. In his own prophetic words, “Freedom never descends upon a people. It is always bought with a price.”

On Christmas night in 1951, in Mims, Fla., a bomb planted under his bedroom ended Moore’s life. His wife, Harriette, died of her own wounds a week later. Although Florida’s governor reopened the case in 1991 and the investigation revealed that the Klan was almost certainly responsible for Moore’s death, no one was ever convicted of this crime.

Using previously unavailable FBI files, Green offers a reckoning of the good and the bad, the villainous and the virtuous. Before His Time is a memorial to the pioneering work of Harry T. Moore, the first martyr of the modern civil rights movement.

A freelance writer and journalist on the Florida State University faculty, Green’s other books include The Finest Kind and Soldier of Fortune Murders.


Self-Taught: African American Education
in Slavery and Freedom
By Heather Andrea Williams
University of North Carolina Press, (March) 2005
320 pp., $29.95 Cloth ISBN: 0-8078-2920-X

In this previously untold story of African-American self-education, Dr. Heather Andrea Williams examines African Americans’ relation to literacy during slavery, during the Civil War and in the first decades of freedom. It traces the historical antecedents to freed people’s intense desire to become literate and demonstrates how the visions of enslaved African Americans emerged into plans and action once slavery ended. 

Enslaved people, Williams contends, placed great value in the practical power of literacy, whether it was to enable them to read the Bible for themselves or to keep informed of the abolition movement and later the progress of the Civil War. Williams argues that by teaching, building schools, supporting teachers, resisting violence and claiming education as a civil right, African Americans transformed the face of education in the South to the great benefit of both Black and White southerners.

Williams is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


The Pearl: A Failed Slave Escape on the Potomac
By Josephine F. Pacheco
University of North Carolina Press, 2005
320 pp., $29.95 Cloth ISBN: 0-8078-2918-8

In the spring of 1848, 76 slaves from the nation’s capital hid aboard a schooner called the Pearl in an attempt to sail down the Potomac River and up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom in Pennsylvania. When inclement weather forced them to anchor for the night, the fugitive slaves and the ship’s crew were captured and returned to Washington. Many of the slaves were sold to the Lower South and two men sailing the Pearl were tried and sentenced to prison.

Recounting this harrowing tale from the preparations for escape through the participants’ trial, Dr. Josephine Pacheco provides fresh insight into the lives of enslaved Blacks in the District of Columbia, putting a human face on the victims of the interstate slave trade whose lives have been overshadowed by larger historical events. She contends that although the incident itself and the trials and the Congressional disputes that followed were not directly responsible for bringing an end to the slave trade in the nation’s capital, they played a pivotal role in publicizing many of the issues surrounding slavery.

Pacheco is professor emerita of history at George Mason University, author of The Legacy of George Mason and co-author of Three Who Dared.

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