Harry T. Moore Homesite - Titusville, Florida

Letter to Roy Wilkins regarding Willie James Howard's lynching

Mims, Fla. March 25, 1944

Mr. Roy Wilkins
69 Fifth Ave.
New York 3, N. Y.

My dear Mr. Wilkins:

On January 2,1944, Willie James Howard, a Negro boy, was lynched near Live Oak, Suwannee County, Fla. I first read about this incident in the Pittsburgh Courier, where it was reported as a rumored lynching. Later, however, I learned from some of my relatives who live in Suwannee County that this boy really had disappeared. Early this month Rev. R. H. Johnson, vice-president of the Orange County Branch, managed to locate the boy's parents, who are now living in Orlando.

Sunday, March 12, our Board of Directors held a meeting in Orlando. We had Mr. and Mrs. Howard come in and give us the details of their sad experience. Last Christmas Willie James sent Christmas cards to all employees of the ten-cent store where he was working. One white girl, the daughter of Phil Geff, felt insulted because she had received Christmas greetings from a Negro. In some way, Willie James learned of her displeasure and wrote a letter of apology. The girl gave the letter to her father, and this led to the lynching. Rev. Johnson learned from the principal of the Negro High School in Live Oak that Willie James had a very commendable record.

I was born and reared in Suwannee County, and I know something about the racial situation up here. The Ku Klux Klan has been active around there during recent years. Negroes have suffered much brutality at the hands of white people. Negroes are so ....cowered that there is never any talk of voting or exercising any of the fundmental rights of citizenship by Negroes. Mrs. Howard was born and reared about two miles from my old home. We have known each other since we were children.

We are anxious to have a Federal investigation of this case. We feel that it will be practically a waste of time to seek help from state authorities. Last sumer we protested to Gov. Holland the lynching of ....Celles Harrison in Jackson County. The Governor replied that an investigation was being made, but we have heard no more from this case.

We are sending copies of the parents' sworn statements to you and to Attorney S. D. McGill of Jacksonville, who was recently elected chairman of our legal Redress Committee. Please try to get the Department of Justice behind this case. If you wish to get in direct touch with the parents, write Rev. R. H. Johnson, Box 127, Maitland, Fla. The State Conference is ready to do anything possible to help secure justice in this matter.

Please let us hear from you.

Very sincerely yours,
HarryT. Moore
(Signed Harry T. Moore)

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