|Died||December 15, 1998|
|Known for||Community activism|
Rowena Moore (1910–1998) was a union and civic activist, and founder of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation in Omaha, Nebraska. She led the effort to have the Malcolm X House Site recognized for its association with the life of the national civil-rights leader. It was listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Nebraska register of historic sites.
Early life and family
Moore was born in 1910 in Meridian, Oklahoma. When her father got a job in the meatpacking industry in 1924, her family moved to Omaha, Nebraska. In 1927, she married. She and her husband had a son.
Career and public life
During World War II Moore noticed that while many women were given jobs in the meatpacking industry, African-American women were discriminated against. Moore organized a union called the Defense Women’s Club of black women who were committed to securing employment and supporting the war effort. Their goals were to promote war bonds and food rationing, child care for working mothers, and securing jobs for black women. They wrote letters to the federal Fair Employment Practices Committee. An official came to Omaha to order the South Omaha packing houses to stop discriminating against black women. Soon after, Moore and some 400 other women were hired. Moore worked in the meatpacking industry for twenty years, managing to retain her position after veterans returned from the war.
Moore rose to become secretary of the meat cutters’ local union. In 1948, she became secretary of the Omaha Metropolitan Labor Council. She further challenged discrimination in the 1950s, when the meatpacking plants attempted to restrict employment. These actions led to Moore's getting fired from the plants; however, she maintained her passion to fight for social justice.
Moore was elected chairwoman of the Douglas County Demographic Central Committee in 1971. She was the first black woman to run for the Omaha City Council. Inspired by listening to Malcolm X’s speeches, Moore decided to start an organization to benefit African Americans. When she learned her father had lived in the house where Malcolm X had first lived and her family still owned the property, Moore became the founding president of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation. Her family made their five lots the basis of the foundation's site. She led an effort to have the site recognized (the house was torn down in 1965 before the family recognized its association with the life of Malcolm X.) Today the Foundation works to advance cultural and educational issues.
The Foundation has preserved the Malcolm X House Site and gained its recognition as a Nebraska historical heritage site and listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Foundation has plans to develop the property as a park and link it to a nearby municipal park.
Moore continued to look for ways to honor Malcolm X's legacy. In 1989 she proposed renaming the North Omaha Freeway as the Malcolm X Freeway. She led an early 1990s gathering with the African-American Progressive Action Network and the National Malcolm X Commemoration Commission to celebrate Malcolm X's life.
- Horowitz, R. and Halpern, R. (1999). Work, Race, and Identity: Self-Representation in the Narratives of Black Packinghouse Workers, Oral History Association.
- (nd) "The West Out Loud: Western Community", Collaborative Digitization Program, Retrieved 4/27/07, inactive link
- Horowitz, R. and Halpern, R. (1999).
- (nd) "Our Founder", Malcolm X Memorial Foundation Website, accessed 13 Jul 2008
- (January 18, 1989) Letter from the Omaha mayor responding to Moore.
- Fuson, K. "Omaha woman never forgot legacy of Malcolm X", Des Moines Register.
- "I'm Been Ahead of My Time: Rowena Moore and Black Women's Activism in Omaha", pp. 85–99, in Halpern, R. and Horowitz, R. (1999), Meatpackers: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999.