In this entry for our 50 Years/50 Collections blog series, former staff member and project archivist, Amber Moore recalls her time spent organizing one of Amistad’s most significant civil rights-related collections, the papers of Ronnie Moore, which were donated to the Center in 1997. During my time at the Amistad Research Center, I had the pleasure of processing the personal papers of Ronnie Moore (no relation), a civil rights veteran. He collected photographs that documented his involvement, and that of many others, with different civil rights activities, including the 1965 voter registration drives in Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina. The photographs in his collection also document Economic Development Commission projects in Mississippi, Maryland and Washington D.C.; conferences; elections; and demonstrations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina; and other activities in Connecticut, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Virginia. "The Civil Rights movement wasn’t something you joined," he recalled, “it was something you got drafted [for] and persuaded [to do].” While a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Moore led a group of 2,500 students to the state capitol to protest the city’s hiring policies and segregated lunch counters. He was subsequently arrested, jailed, and expelled from Southern University for his involvement in the demonstration. Shortly after his release from jail, Moore began working full-time as a field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1961 where he worked on CORE's Southern program to establish voter registration initiatives in the South, particularly in St. Francisville and Jonesboro, Louisiana, and Williamsburg, South Carolina, where he and other activists registered and recruited African Americans to vote and start local CORE chapters. Three years later, Moore was appointed as the executive director of the Scholarship, Education and Defense Fund for Racial Equality, Inc. (SEDFRE), a leadership training organization committed to serving civil rights organizations and producing community leaders. As executive director, Moore was responsible for staff recruitment and the development of leadership programs in more than 25 states. While processing Moore's papers, I was excited about all the photographs in the collection. He collected a variety of images documenting the political and social empowerment of African Americans in the South during the 1960s. It was great to see so many images from the Civil Rights Movement in one place. Along with photographs, the collection contains correspondence, newsletters, news clippings, publications and articles documenting Moore’s career as an activist. What I found especially interesting were copies of The Core-lator, the Congress of Racial Equality's (CORE) bimonthly newsletter, which reported on civil rights marches, protests, and voter registration drives. I also found a police pass issued to Moore by the Memphis Police Department following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968!
It was such a rewarding experience to process Moore’s papers because of his commitment to civil rights, community development, leader training, and cultural diversity. I actually had the opportunity to meet Moore and show him how to access his collection online. It was so special to meet the man who I'd learned so much about while processing his papers. It was an experience I'll never forget. Thanks to Amber’s efforts to organize the Ronnie Moore papers, the Amistad Research Center is happy to announce that over 450 of the photographs from that collection now appear in a new digital collection, the formation of which was funded by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.
Images from the Ronnie Moore papers. Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.