Story of Peter Moore, who overcame the heinous murder of his enslaved dad to become a colossus in education

Stephen Nartey January 30, 2023
Peter Weddick Moore/Photo credit: Elizabeth City State University

Peter Weddick Moore was born to enslaved African Americans. But his mom Alecy Thompson, who was denied the opportunity to read and write, ensured that all her five children got a better education.

She made sure Moore was enrolled at a school set up by the Freedmen’s Bureau to begin his formal education. He later attended the Philosophian Academy in Sampson County. It is believed it was under the mentorship of Burke Marable at the Academy that Moore nurtured his passion for books and purpose.

He was granted certification to teach in a school near Clinton at the age of 20. He funded his education at Shaw University in Raleigh in 1880 by working on a cotton farm during his spare time.

A Good Samaritan in the person of President H.M. Tupper noticed Moore’s unflinching passion for education so he appointed him a student instructor in 1882 to enable him to save money to pursue his dreams. Moore also took up a job at the brickyard on campus and in a nearby foundry.

A colleague of Moore recalled how he was on top of issues and had an affinity for science and mathematics during his schooling days.

Moore earned his A.B. degree in 1887 and was awarded M.A. and LL.D. degrees from Shaw University in recognition of his input to education in the state. He became a teacher in Bertie County for about a year before moving to State Normal School in Plymouth where he rose to become the assistant principal. He was with the State Normal School for four years.

He was later made the principal of the new State Normal School for the Colored Race which was later named Elizabeth City State University. He taught for the rest of his working life at the university. The school in 1894 moved to a bigger facility from the Rooks Turner building and later to its current site.

Moore was of the view that education alone was not enough for the holistic training of students, so he included moral education in their curriculum. He also stressed the need for the students to excel in dignity. He is said to have used himself to set an example for the integrity and uprightness he demanded from others.

He also ensured that industrial training was also included later in the curriculum to prepare the students for the job market. Moore ensured that whatever training was being offered didn’t produce half-baked students for society and the workplace.

Aside from his administrative role, he was actively involved in teaching and supervision of practicals by the students. He had to step back when his health began deteriorating in 1921. A position of dean was created for him to be still part of the system. John H. Bias was appointed to assist him.

On May 25, 1928, he was appointed to the position of president emeritus of the university and placed on salary and given a fully furnished apartment. He however insisted he is allowed to teach courses in classroom management.

He married Symera T. Raynor of Windsor in 1899. They had two daughters. He was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Elizabeth City.

Moore achieved all the above despite the tragedy his family faced. Born to Weddick and Alecy Thompson Moore near Faison in Duplin County, Moore’s dad is reported to have been killed by the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction, leaving the burden of taking care of the five children on Alecy.

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