SEPTA unveils historical markers to honor freedom fighter's legacy

Cherri Gregg
April 02, 2019 - 3:47 pm
SEPTA, elected officials and community activists gathered at the corner of North Broad and Cecil B. Moore Avenue Tuesday to celebrate the fearless civil rights activist, and there are plans to ensure no one forgets Cecil Moore.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — SEPTA, elected officials and community activists gathered at the corner of North Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue Tuesday to celebrate the fearless civil rights activist, and there are plans to ensure no one forgets Cecil B. Moore. 

Dozens gathered on the east side of Cecil B. Moore Station Tuesday morning as SEPTA unveiled two historic informational display panels in honor of Moore, on what would have been his 104th birthday.

"He was a champion for the underserved and underprivileged during a tumultuous time in Philadelphia and American history," said Jeffrey Knueppel, SEPTA general manager. 

He celebrated the biographical panels, which include details of Moore's life. Moore was a Montford Point Marine, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, served on Philadelphia City Council, and, of course, was fierce in the court room. 

One of the most memorable parts of Moore's vast legacy was his successful effort to desegregate Girard College more than 50 years ago. 

Moore's approach was to attack segregation through the courts and on the ground.

Related:

"These are the people that kicked down doors, so everybody here could have a chance to walk through it," said Karen Asper-Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters.  

She met Moore when she was in her teens and was part of his group of civilly disobedient soldiers who were trained in resistance by Moore to stand on the frontlines. They took beatings, marched and challenged discriminatory laws. Many times, they landed in jail and Moore would get them out.

Now in their 70s and 80s, their fight is to keep their mentor's legacy alive.

"He was one of the most brilliant men you would ever meet," said Asper-Jordan, "and yes, he drank and he cursed and he loved women, but that was just Cecil."  

The Temple University law graduate was known for his fashion and his love of expensive liquor and cigars. But he was also known for his fight; he'd take on black and white groups alike if their methods harmed the underserved and underprivileged.

"He was unapologetic, he was profane," said Dr. Walter Palmer, who worked with Moore and knew him for years until his death in 1979. "Do not sanitize him, do not make him into sainthood. Make him be the man that he was."

Asper-Jordan and the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters hope that the biographical panels are just the beginning. The effort comes just a few years after dust-up over the branding of the station when, in 2015, Temple rebranded the space covering some of the Cecil B. Moore signage. 

These biographic panels are part of an effort to reclaim Moore's legacy in the space, and Asper-Jordan said more will come.

"We want to make this place, of history, downstairs, as well as upstairs," she said. 

Moore was born on April 2, 1915. He died Feb. 15, 1979 at the age of 63.