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  • Queen Mother Audley MooreMentor and Teacher
  • Muhammad Ahmad (bio)

My first contact with Queen Mother Audley Moore came through Mrs. Ethel Johnson, who was the initial mentor for the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) in Philadelphia. Mrs. Johnson, who lived in North Carolina, was an activist with Monroe, North Carolina NAACP leader Robert Williams. Queen Mother was part of a group of nationalists who supported and raised funds for Williams and the Monroe NAACP's support of self-defense in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mrs. Johnson told me she was in the Harriet Tubman study group with Queen Mother Moore and Mabel Holloway, another elder in RAM.

Before Mrs. Johnson left Philadelphia to return to Monroe, she said "I'm not going to leave you without a mentor" and took me to see Queen Mother Moore. At that point it didn't resonate with me what was going on. One day, I was walking by Queen Mother's house, and something told me to go up to her window. Sure enough it opened. I went into her study. From one end to the other there were clippings that went back to the 1930s. There were all kinds of things you wouldn't get in a history book. I don't know how long I was in there. Then she opened the door and said: "Oh, what do we have here?" This was like fate. She said: "Don't stop darling, I'll fix you dinner." I spent the whole weekend listening to her. This started our student-mentor relationship.

Queen Mother had a series of discussions with RAM. Formed in Philadelphia in 1963, RAM was the first revolutionary nationalist group of African Americans to use direct action organizing techniques and to advocate for armed self-defense. She gave the young RAM cadre political works to read and provided us with a historical-theoretical foundation for our political work. She would send us pamphlets by Marx like "Wages, Price, and Profit." [End Page 169] She also sent Mao's "On Practice," and "On Contradiction." We also studied African American history. She gave us James Allen's Reconstruction: The Battle for Democracy, Black Reconstruction by W. E. B. DuBois, and Negro Liberation by Harry Haywood. We also studied Herbert Aptheker's American Negro Slave Revolts.

Queen Mother Moore was initiated into a political life of resistance as a member of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, but her foundation as a political thinker and organizer came from her years in the Communist Party USA. Moore initially joined the International Labor League that was defending the Scottsboro Boys (nine African American youth accused of raping two white women) thinking it was the Communist Party. She officially joined the party in 1933, encouraged by its involvement with the Scottsboro case and advocacy of civil rights. The party helped her hone her organizational skills among working-class people and gave her an in-depth understanding of capitalism.

Queen Mother took up able leadership in the Harlem section of the Communist Party. In March 1941, she was elected executive secretary of the 21st Assembly District of Harlem section of the party. In 1943, she was the campaign manager for party candidate Benjamin Davis, who became the second black councilman in New York City. She began the campaign with $50 and a Harlem storefront. She grew the campaign significantly, getting Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, and Joe Louis to support Davis. In February 1948, Queen Mother was a speaker at the Women's State Committee Convention of the Communist Party. She said she resigned from the party in 1950.

As an independent organizer, Queen Mother, and her sisters Eloise Moore and Mother Langley, founded the University Association of Ethiopian Women, which worked for racial justice for black men in Louisiana throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She also led a successful campaign to restore twenty-three thousand African American and white families to welfare rolls after they were cut off by Louisiana state authorities. Queen Mother and her sisters also raised the question of reparations. In 1962, Moore organized the Reparations Committee of the Descendants of the United States...


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