Dr. Peter W. Moore, a slave of Turkey in Sampson County, was one of the real founders of Elizabeth City State University, which was chartered by the State Legislature in 1891. It was then known as the State Colored Norman School. Dr. Moore was president of the institution from 1892 to 1928.
Peter W. Moore was born in 1859 on a plantation three miles northeast of Turkey and was the son of Reddick and Lexie Thomson Moore. She was a servant to Curtis Thomson and he was a servant to Mrs. Maria O. Moore.
Reddick Moore could read and write and was a cabinetmaker. During the War Between the States, he was sent to Warsaw to read the war news and casualty lists. Maria Moore was a widow and her three sons were all soldiers in the Confederate Army fighting in northern Virginia.
Reddick Moore hoped to one day be free, so he saved his money in order to buy his freedom. Ironically, by the time that Emancipation came, he had accumulated more than enough. But with the Union Army already in the area, Reddick secretly buried his money for safekeeping. The very next day, he was mysteriously killed and no one ever knew of what became of his gold.
Reddick and Lexie Moore had at least two other children, the Rev. George Moore, a professor at Shaw University, and Winnie Moore, also a college graduate. There could have been others. The Freeman’s Bureau helped the Moore children get a formal education.
After the War, Reddick Moore’s widow married a man by the name of Antony Hargrove and they remained in the area. Peter Moore attended a school located north of Turkey that was operated by the Freeman’s Bureau. He later attended Shaw University where he graduated in 1887. One of his contemporaries said of him, “He was always courteous and polite and taught ethics to all students. He was very religious and spent lots of time teaching one how to live, be decent and clean.”
Peter W. Moore taught school for several years. He joined Six Runs Baptist Church near Turkey when he was young. He may have been a Baptist minister. His biographer says of him, “He worked upon the premise that well trained individuals become better citizens. He believed that good citizens were knowledgeable, refined, cultured, worthy of respect and understanding.” He believed that improving the ability to think would improve one’s own standard of living and that the improving of the standards of living would improve the black race.
In 1891, the NC General Assembly authorized the establishment of the State Normal School in the town of Elizabeth City in response to a bill calling for the creation of a two-year Normal School for the “teaching and training [of] teachers of the colored race to teach in North Carolina”.
When Peter W. Moore became president of the State Normal School in 1892, the role of the school was limited to preparing young people to teach. He started off in a rented frame building with 2 faculty members and 23 students, and an annual budget of $900 for maintenance. When he retired in 1928, there were 15 faculty members and 355 students. Professor Moore received an honorary LLD degree from Shaw University.
I well remember when I was young in the 1920’s; Dr. Peter Moore and the Rev. George Moore came to see my father and his aunt, Mrs. Sallie Moore Britt. They talked about the days when they were young.
Dr. Moore retired in 1927 and was made President Emeritus, the first such action to be taken in a public institution in the State of North Carolina. He died April 19, 1934 in Elizabeth City and is buried there. Dr. Moore and his wife, Symera, had two daughters, Ruth and Bessie. The Peter W. Moore School near Faison is named for him.
Today Elizabeth City State University enrolls nearly 2,500 students in 37 baccalureate programs and 4 masters degree programs. It is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, as well as a member-institution of the greater University of North Carolina educational system.
* Reprinted by permission of the Mount Olive Tribune