Christopher Paul Moore could speak authoritatively on a wide spectrum of African American history and culture, and if you were lucky enough to pull him from his many activities at the Schomburg Center you had an incomparable resource at your beck and call. I consider myself one of the fortunate to receive his guidance and expertise in the completion of several books and a number of articles. My last contact with him was several years ago and we had planned to work on a project together. If that objective is to be completed it will be missing Chris’s ongoing living counsel since he died on March 13 in Brooklyn, according to his wife Kim Yancey Moore, from complications of COVID and pneumonia. He was 70.
Besides his vast knowledge, what I miss most about him was the congenial and caring demeanor, no matter the nature of your request or the challenges he faced. All he wanted to do once you presented your problem or issue was what could be done to solve it, what materials you needed to accomplish that mission. Chris loomed in my thoughts recently as I worked on a historical document for the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, a project that resembled the tribute publication he, Howard Dodson and Roberta Yancy edited on “The New York Black 100 in 1998.” Each of them deserved to be among these illustrious notables.
When I commended Chris on the publication he demurred, explaining it was a team effort that included the recommendations from a countless number of people who responded to a questionnaire. Even so, that list had to be parsed and pared down, and that’s where I believe Chris was an essential member. His skillful editorial insight was certainly at play in his book “Fighting for America: Black Soldiers—The Unsung Heroes of World War II” (One World, Ballantine Books, New York, 2005). His peerless research disclosed a considerable amount of information about the untold heroism of African American soldiers, and even when they were cited it was often accompanied by disdain as revealed in a letter from PFC. Hoyt Fuller, later to become a formidable writer and editor. Fuller’s company the 371st Infantry then stationed in Italy had just won nine of twelve Division citations but when the regiment was commended by the lieutenant colonel in charge of the celebration, he wondered why the Black soldiers could not attain a similar excellence on venereal disease. “Even now I’m not sure exactly why I’m writing to you,” Fuller mused, “except that I’ve got to tell someone about some of the things that go on here, and are forever used to our disadvantage.”
And these are stories that Chris felt compelled to relate, and this is just a sample of the expansiveness of this endeavor. He was a thoughtful and thorough researcher, who rarely left a stone unturned in his pursuit of a full understanding of an issue or topic. Much of Chris’s early years can be found in the Epilogue of his book, but thanks to Sam Roberts of The New York Times, we learn that Chris was born Jan. 20, 1952, in Suffern, N.Y. In the Epilogue he recounts both sides of his family—a mother Norma (DeFreese) was descended from the Ramapough Lenape Council of Native Americans, and his father Willard a farmer from Alabama.
Chris was a graduate of Northeastern University in 1974 where he earned a degree of fine arts in theater and journalism. One of his first jobs was as the news editor for the National Black Network that serviced a number of Black-oriented radio stations. He also moonlighted as an actor, appearing on “As the World Turns” on television and in Off Broadway productions, such as “A Soldier’s Play.” During an interview with Dr. Roscoe Brown Jr. on his television show, Chris spoke at length about how he came to write the book about Black soldiers, mainly as a result as he said of “lucky research” and being directed to a trove of letters compiled by Lawrence Reddick from Black soldiers during World War II, many of which were housed at the Schomburg.
His years at the Schomburg were beneficial in several ways and he was an indispensable benefit for the Schomburg, often spearheading and curating various exhibitions, including, “Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery” (2001); “The Buffalo Soldiers: The African American Soldier in the U.S. Army,” (2004), which was launched a year before his book “Fighting for America” was published. He possessed a boundless expertise on the Dutch, Native Americans, and Africans in New York, and was often summoned to discuss this history on radio, television, and the internet. Among his many affiliations was his membership on the Landmarks Commission for two decades, where he was instrumental in preserving a variety of properties and, even before he was appointed, wrote the reports designating several landmarks, including the Mother A.M.E. Zion Church and the Abyssinian Baptist Church, both in Harlem. And we would be remiss not to include his tireless devotion to the African Burial Ground and its place on the historical timeline.
In 1990, he married Kim Yancey, an actress, and they had two children, Terrence and Matthew.