by Patrick H. Moore

During the jury selection process in the George Zimmerman second-degree-murder trial, various potential jurors spoke disparagingly about the demonstrations in Sanford, FL that were instrumental in bringing about the charges against Mr. Zimmerman. For example, one juror,  during voir dire, characterized the large protests in Sanford following the local prosecutor’s protestfailure to charge Zimmerman as “riots.” In addition, those individuals proclaiming Zimmerman’s innocence have been quick to claim that this a simply a case of justifiable self-defense and equally quick to deny that there is any racial element to this case. The prosecution, on the other hand, is claiming that Zimmerman targeted Trayvon Martin because he was black.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, I did some research and here is what I found:

  • Florida historically had a larger per capita percentage of KKK lynchings of African- Americans than any state in the union.
  • The area around Sanford was formerly a hotbed of Central Florida KKK activity.
  • The great baseball player Jackie Robinson, the first black to ever play major league baseball,  was driven out of Sanford by the KKK and other racist elements of the community during spring training in 1946.
  • Harry Tyson Moore, the founder of the first branch of the NAACP in Seminole County, Fla., the county Sanford is located in, was murdered by the KKK in a firebombing in 1951. His wife also died from injuries she sustained during the firebombing.


The Jackie Robinson Incident

Sean Yoes in a special report to AFRO on March 28, 2012, described both the Jackie Robinson incident and the Harry Tyson Moore incident.

The legendary Branch Rickey, owner and General Manager of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, broke Major League Baseball’s “color barrier” when he signed Jackie Robinson to a Dodgers’ contract in February of 1946. Robinson was then assigned to the Dodgers’ minor league team, the Montreal Royals. On March 4, 1946 Robinson and the Royals were scheduled to play an exhibition game in Sanford as part of a tour of the Deep South.

robbyWhen Robinson — accompanied by sportswriter Sam Lacy — arrived at the stadium in a car that evening, he was met by “a large crowd of Sanford’s White citizens…some of them members of the Ku Klux Klan, which was very active in that region of the state.” The group of white citizens was “determined to keep Robinson out of ‘their’ ballpark” and were further “determined to run Robinson out of Sanford one way or another.”

The group of white racists met with the mayor of Sanford and demanded Robinson be forced out of town. Sanford city officials then informed the Royals that black and white ballplayers would not be allowed on the same playing field.

According to Mr. Lacy, future Hall-of Famer and lifelong Republican Robinson “was undeterred by the hostile throng gathered at the stadium.” Lacy and Robinson drove around to the back of the ballpark and managed to enter the field through a hole in the outfield fence.

Mr. Lacy has not stated whether Robinson actually played in the game that night. What is abundantly clear, however, is that the pall of racial oppression was as thick as the humidity that infamous March night in Sanford. After the game, Dodgers’ G.M. Branch Rickey decided it was too dangerous for Robinson to be in Sanford and Robinson left town and presumably never came back.


The Harry Tyson Moore Firebombing Incident:

The murder of black activist Harry Tyson Moore and his wife in Sanford – “five years after Jackie Robinson was run out of town – and decades before the Trayvon Martin tragedy – shook the Black community of Central Florida to its core.”

familyMoore was a local teacher who worked tirelessly for equal pay for black teachers in Florida public schools. He was also the founder of the first branch of the NAACP in Seminole County and eventually became the state secretary for the Florida chapter of the NAACP. Among other things, he filed lawsuits against voter registration barriers for African-Americans and investigated lynchings.

Moore’s tireless work between 1944 and 1950 “led to an increase in Black voter registration in Florida to 31 percent of those eligible to vote, higher than any other Southern state.”

Moore’s good work resulted in him becoming a “marked man” in the eyes of racist elements in the local community.  Christmas night of 1951 was the 25th wedding anniversary of Moore and his wife, Harriette Vyda Simms Moore. On that night his house was fire bombed.

Moore died on his way to a Sanford hospital and his wife died 9 days later of her injuries.

After their deaths, firebombing became a popular method of White racist intimidation in the South.

No one was ever indicted in their murders. However, in 2006 the state of Florida concluded the Moore’s were murdered as a result of a conspiracy by the Central Florida Ku Klux Klan.

Thus, Sanford’s legacy of racial intolerance is a historical fact. The characterization of the demonstrations that led to the charges being filed against Zimmerman as “riots” appears to be emblematic of that racial intolerance. I personally anticipate that George Zimmerman will be acquitted of the second-degree-murder charges. In the event that he is convicted, however, it is entirely possible that a new wave of racial violence against blacks may break out.


23 Responses to Sanford, Florida Has a History of Brutal Racist Oppression: KKK Once Drove Hall-Of-Famer Jackie Robinson Out of Town

  1. Roberta says:

    I am hoping that Zimmerman IS convicted. I was astonished that officials had not charged him at the very beginning. Had he heeded the police instructions NOT to pursue Trayvon, then this would never have happened. Zimmerman was an over-zealous police wannabe who reveled in his authority. God forbid had he ever been accepted in the police force.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Zimmerman’s failure to obey police instructions appears to weaken his claims that he shot Martin in self-defense because, as you say, this would never have happened had he not disobeyed the instructions from the police dispatcher. The fact that so many people on Zimmerman’s side are stating Zimmerman has only been charged because Trayvon Martin is black is rather startling. If you or I had done what Zimmerman did we would almost certainly be facing charges.

  2. Terry from Tampa says:

    Yes, 257 blacks were lynched in Florida in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968. I’m not sure why that’s any more germane to this particular trial in 2013 than the fact that over 6 million Jews were killed by Germans in the 1940s would be to any given modern day murder trial in Germany where the victim happened to be Jewish.

    If a German who happened to be Jewish was murdered today in Munich by someone whose ancestors didn’t even live in Germany during the time of the Holocaust, would we immediately cry “genocide!” and “racism!”?

    We don’t still hate all Germans for the fact that their ancestors committed the Holocaust; we don’t still hate all Japanese for the fact that their ancestors committed the Rape of Nanking and the Pearl Harbor attack; why is prejudice against the South for the sins of some long-gone Southern racists still so acceptable?

    Most black youths killed in Florida these days are killed by other blacks, that’s a fact. “Racism” and the past history of the KKK have nothing to do with it. It’s only the fact that this one was killed by an hispanic that makes it newsworthy.

    Stop race-baiting. It’s ugly.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Thanks for the statistics, Terry, and thanks for your thoughtful — albeit angry — comment. Race-baiting, according to one definition is: “the making of verbal attacks against members of a racial group.”

      I’m not so sure that I verbally attack the white race in this post. Rather, I suggest that the comments of the jurors characterizing the Sanford demonstrations as “riots” suggest an underlying and lingering prejudice against African-Americans.

    • Maria says:

      well said..

  3. Harold Williams says:

    Over 350 million black folks were killed on slave ships coming to this country. Thousands of Blacks were lynched in the South during Jim Crow. Racism is still very much alive now in 2013

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      These are truly frightening statistics. The fact that so many are saying with respect to the Zimmerman trial: “This is not about race” suggests that it is very much about race. What do you think?

    • willie howard says:

      yes it was very muvh alive than as it is now in 2015

  4. David Dailey says:

    To Whom it May Concern

    The subject and surrounding areas concerning the subject case have a history of racial tension. The following books designated Item A and Item B :
    Item A- “Before his time : the untold story of Harry T. Moore, America’s first civil rights martyr ” author Ben Green ISBN: 9780684854533
    This book delineates the Christmas Day 1951 murder of Harry Tyson Moore and his wife Harriette Vyda Simms Moore in Mims, Florida by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Harry and Harriette Moore were active in voter registration for the Negro in these Central Florida area(s). The KKK had a barbeque early Christmas Day at the Jessup Lake just off a down ramp off Route 46 between Sanford, Florida and Mims, Florida. Later that 1951 Christmas Day, the KKK planted a bomb under the Mims, Florida house of Harry and Harriette Moore. Upon the explosion, Both Moore’s were taken to the Afro-American Hospital in Sanford,Florida. Harry Moore died Christmas Day and Harriette Moore died a few days later. To this day the Afro- American Hospital still stands and is used as a quasi- roomming house but no longer a Black Hospital. No parties were ever prosecuted for this crime. Drugs are rampant in Sanford and are easily obtained in an area of Sanford, Florida called “THE HOOD”. Many of the small Florida towns in this and surrounding areas operate with the “Good Ole Boy” system of politics, law enforecment, and general racial prejudice and usually fall short of quality justice. Addiitonally, there are still pockets of KKK operations and meetings throughout the area: Crescent City, Florida and Paisley, Florida are two (2) quick Florida towns that come to mind; but there are lots more. I’m sure the FBI would be on top of this area of concern. A highly reliable Volusia County contact has mentioned that the KKK has offered or has provided funds for the defense of George Zimmerman and that this has been mentioned on television news and in the newspapers in Volusia County: I am not personally aware of this occurrence but it wouldn’t surprise me.
    Item B- “Groveland Four” by Gary Corsair (The last known phone/fax number for Gary Corsair is 352-750-2977- The fax number seems to be active continuously)) This book follows the events of an alleged rape of a seventeen year old white woman, Norma Padgett, by four (4) black men in July, 1949: The four Afro-American men were (1) Ernest Thomas, (2) Walter Irvin, (3) Sam Shepherd, (4) and Charles Greenlee. As of eight years ago Charles Greenlee, who was sixteen at the time of the alleged rape, was the only surviving member of the quartet: A close relative was the postmistress at the U.S. Post Office in Bronson, Florida. Charles Greenlee had been very reclusive and I didn’t even consider asking his whereabouts. I have read the books and talked to many people and have learned not to trust Sheriff Willis V McCall and his close Deputy James Yates. Yates was the Officer who shot Walter Irvin in the neck while lying on the ground after being shot by McCall. And Irvin survived! Norma Padgett was alive and living two-three miles south in the Bay Park (Florida) area between Groveland(Florida) and Stuckey(Florida). I made a trip to north Florida about eight years ago and talked with the long-retired Sheriff of Madison (Florida). At the time of the killing of Ernest Thomas, Sheriff Willis McCall was the one who killed/shot Ernest Thomas: Thomas’s body was taken to a second story of building in Madison that was being used as a mortuary . In returning to South Florida I stopped at a convenience store in Greenville, Florida and met an Afro-American who mentioned that there was an elderly Black Man(BM) who was quite familiar with this case/killing. The Black Man lived about 3/4ths of a mile north of the Shady Grove convenience store on the west side of Florida Route 221. The son of the Black Man(BM) was encountered and he requested that I not disturb his father BM who was in declining health and couldn’t deal with this controversial issue even after all these years. This elderly BM went by the name of “PONY”. I passed on this issue and went to see the tobacco farm where Ernest Thomas had been in hiding. Then I headed South. Sheriff Willis V McCall had lived living in Umatilla and Eustis, Florida. About a mile south of Umatilla (downtown) the Afro- Americans sold fruit from 12 foot wide utility/maintenance trucks and they would readily discuss the “trumped up” charges by Sheriff McCall and Deputy Sheriff James Yates who all along were trying to play the “cover your ass” (CYA) routine in a very theatrical manner at the expense of the Afro-American’s . I consider both men to be cowards. Eight years ago former Sheriff McCall was dead and retired Deputy Sheriff James Yates was hiding somewhere in Florida: Both had/have relatives in the Umatilla area. While the information I provide does not bear directly on the George Zimmerman/ Trayvon Martin Case, It does reflect a long standing unsatisfactory bully racial mindset in the Sanford, Florida and similar areas in Central Florida.
    In 2006 , Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist provided a lengthy report indicating that Sheriff Willis McCall was not involved in the 1951 Christmas Day KKK bombing of Harry T Moore’s home. Fifty-six years (56) after the fact! I call the report a DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. Copyright 2013 David L Dailey 6/19/2013–phone 858-568-3878

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Mr. Dailey, Thank you for providing us with this very relevant, detailed, and sobering information. I’m very impressed by all the work and careful research that went into this. Please do comment any time the spirit moves you, Patrick

    • Very interesting information. I am reading Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King about the Groveland boys’case. My father grew up in Umatilla and my grandfather knew Willis McCall well but did not say much to me about him. I do know that he was one sorry excuse for a human being. We must all pay attention to what goes on today. It is a mistake to think that these things won’t happen again. They will if we let them.

  5. WM65fromMissouri says:

    1.No real eye witness to the actual killing George says self defense.
    2.George said he feared for his life
    3.Prosecutors and Defenders were about equal
    4.Judge seemed fair
    5.The JURY felt intimidated by their own society.As of today their names are unknown.The majority, 5 of 6 were white women afraid to give any type of guilty verdict for fear of reprisals from white people.The jurors found GZ not quilty because the felt less fesr from Black People.The KKK supported George Zimmerman Financially.
    6,The Legal lesson here is that you can kill a black,claim the Zimmerman Defense and go free.The people down there know the jurors influence the jurors to arrive at the correct decision.A show trial where the verdict is a foregone conclusion
    7.Investigate the klan involvement and contacts to the jurors

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      You make some good points here. I am very curious to know to what degree the KKK is still active in Central Florida.

  6. Janet S says:


    You were so right, that juror that you mentioned in your article back in June “that characterized the large protests in Sanford following the local prosecutor’s failure to charge Zimmerman as “riots.” is the famous juror B37 that gave an interview last night with Anderson Cooper, after listening to her I realized that Trayvon Martin never had a chance of getting justice in a town like sad.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Thanks for your comment, Janet S. I believe you’re on to something here though you’ll never get Juror B37 to admit it, or any other George Zimmerman supporters, for that matter.

  7. Willie Fields says:

    To get an understanding of the Trayvon Martin’s verdict all Afrikan
    Amerikans need to read the book “Hands Of Brutality” at Amazon and
    share it with your sons and daughters.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Thank you for this recommendation. Although I am not African-American, I will check out this book. Thanks again.

  8. Bruce says:

    Mr. Moore publicly stated that Lake County then sheriff Willis McCall, said to be a KKK member, should be indicted for murder. Two black men were arrested for raping a white woman, tried and sentenced to death. They were sent to FL prison in Starke. An appeals court overthrough the conviction because of a complete lack of evidence, and a new trial was ordered. McCall alone picked up the two men. On the drive back to Lake County, he shot and killed one and badly injured the other, claiming self-defense during an escape attempt. The survivor said no one tried to escape, that it was just murder. Mr. Moore made his statement and six weeks later, on Christmas night, the Moores’ home was blown up and they were both killed.

  9. bizall says:

    I am from Alabama and I always knew of Florida’s history of racism. It is ironic that a Floridian wouldn’t.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Florida seems to be peculiarly blind to its faults. When I drove through the Deep South many years ago, folks in Miss and Alabama seemed quite friendly, folks in Florida less so though we now have plenty of great Twitter friends from Florida.

  10. tallnfla says:

    What makes this interesting is that black on black crime is just a symptom of a condition of what a racist america has created. Why are we confined to a small living area to live like wild animals. It is only natural to regress and behave like one. It is already shown and well documented that when we are left alone and allowed equal economic opportunities of our white counterparts that we will be productive, landowning, tax paying citizens, but like always jealous racist white come in fabricate a criminal lie and kill or run out the blacks, burn down the town and take the land.

    But everybody hates when a black person say it is race related. Why, because deep down it always is race related.

  11. anonymous says:

    Groveland is still at it. Someone take a look at the conviction numbers and sentencing times vs. their neighbor cityOrlando. Person gets arrested for the same thing gets triple the time in groveland clermont honestly lake and summer county. It’s sad and no hope for black families unless you have some type of good income even then you’re in a bad position 2015 and still corrupt one day someone well grow the courage and expose this on a legal and intellectual level. It’s gonna take a great legal team. I used to live there and and just moved back because of hard times. There is something cooking in groveland something that’s gonna shock the world if it’s noticed to late

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