Community members and officials gathered on Tuesday for the unveiling of historic panels at the Cecil B. Moore SEPTA station to commemorate the 104th birthday of the civil rights activist.
The project took six years to become a reality for the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters, a 50-year-old racial equality activist group based in Philadelphia, led by Karen Asper Jordan. The Freedom Fighters gathered the biographical information and images of Moore for the display, while McCormick Taylor, a civil engineering firm, built the panels. SEPTA funded and installed the project.
Cecily Moore Banks, Moore’s daughter, thanked the Freedom Fighters members, local government officials and SEPTA for their work to honor her father. He marched with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to fight for racial equality and is a North Philadelphia icon.
The panels are located at the station’s northbound entrance on Broad Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Sections of the plaques are also on rotation in digital panels located on the southbound side of the station.
“The Freedom Fighters have been an outstanding partner throughout the years and we look forward to continued collaboration in the future,” said Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s general manager, to the crowd gathered on Tuesday.
One of the panels displays information about Moore’s early years, like when he graduated from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in 1953 and when he became a member of the Montford Point Marines, a veterans’ services organization created to honor the first African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps. Moore served as a Marine for nine years and was promoted to be Sergeant Major, the highest ranking a Black man could attain at the time, according to the Freedom Fighters’ website.
“[Moore] was a hero,” said Marshall Houston, a Montford Point Marine Corps league commandant. “A lot of people see heroes in combat. He was in combat in the Marine Corps, overseas and back here in Philadelphia.”
Depicted in the panels are Moore’s achievements as a lawyer in Philadelphia, when he defended low-income people of color who did not have access to quality legal representation. Another panel at the SEPTA station details Moore’s accomplishments as a civil rights activist, including becoming president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
“Cecil B. Moore, through sheer force of will, and because of all the folks that marched with him, worked with him and stood with him, changed the history of Philadelphia,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who represents the 181st district where Temple is located, during the event.
During his time as president of the local NAACP, Moore organized the famous demonstration to desegregate Girard College. Moore, along with other members of the NAACP, protested from May 1, 1965 until the successful desegregation on September 11, 1968.
Asper Jordan said the Freedom Fighters plan to do more work to commemorate Moore at the station.
“We want to make this place a place of history downstairs, as well as upstairs, because this is the history of North Philadelphia, it’s about Philadelphia, and we want people, no matter what side of the subway they come on…[to] see a history down there,” she said.