By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
At 78, Dianne Moore has lived her fair share of history, which is why it’s important for her to preserve.
“I’ve always been interested in history, especially black history,” she said. “Growing up, I would go to the library and check out all these books and things. … Even now, I have all these books about African-Americans because I am African-
American, and I’m proud of it.
“We, as African-Americans, really need to know where we come from and where we’re going.”
Moore is director of public relations for the Birmingham African-American Genealogy Group (BAAGG), which was organized in 1999 and is the oldest African-American genealogy group in Alabama. The nonprofit organization encourages genealogical research and documentation, and makes presentations at local, state, and national events and seminars. Moore has been with the group for two years.
BAAGG will host its 20th annual Black Heritage Fair at the Birmingham Public Library on Saturday, February 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; registration begins at 10 a.m., and the program will start at 11 a.m. This year’s theme is “The Great Migration North and West,” something Moore knows about because her family migrated to Ohio from Alabama.
“I was born in Fairfield at TCI Hospital, [the former Lloyd Noland Hospital, which closed in 2004], but I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio,” said Moore. “[At the time], there were several migrations of African-Americans leaving the rural South and other places for economic reasons. My family was one of those families.
“My father worked for U.S. Steel [in Birmingham], but his siblings all lived in Gary, Ind., or Chicago, Ill. So, we moved to Indiana, [where] we stayed for a few years. Then we moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where I was raised and went to school.”
Growing up in Youngstown, Moore was often one of the few African-Americans in her classes, especially in high school, but that wasn’t a challenge for her.
“I was on the debate team, and we traveled [to competitions]. I wrote for the school newspaper, and we went to journalism conventions,” she said. “It gave me a good feeling to be accepted and not have the harsh experiences I could have possibly had.”
Moore graduated from high school in 1958 and attended Youngstown State University for two years. After leaving college, she got married and moved to Washington, D.C., where she and her husband lived for about 10 years before moving back to Youngstown.
Back in Ohio, Moore got a taste of history. While working for a local radio station and the black weekly newspaper, the Buckeye Review, she interviewed celebrities like former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
“Muhammad Ali was in town for a charity fundraiser, so I got to interview him. It was fun, and I actually still have that recording,” she said. “When President Jimmy Carter ran for his first term [in 1976], Rosalynn Carter called, and I got a chance to talk with her.”
Back to Birmingham
A few years after she and her husband moved back to Youngstown, they divorced, and Moore returned to Birmingham. That was around 1977.
When she got to the Magic City, she worked for a local television station as a receptionist. She worked there for six months, and then left over a Labor Day weekend to visit her house in Ohio—“When I came back, they had replaced me,” Moore said.
She went on to hold positions with a local radio station, the federal government, and finally the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD), where she worked for 21 years in housing management before retiring.
BAAGG meets once every month and in November will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
“I heard about the group through my daughter’s father-in-law, who’s in it,” Moore said. “I help them with public relations and fundraising because that’s where my heart is, but I’ve always been curious about [the type of work BAAGG does]. It’s really interesting.
“We meet month to month, and we go on trips. This year, we’re going to Selma. They’ve gone to Gee’s Bend to see the quilts; I missed that one. I like stuff like this because its history, and I like history. It’s a lot of fun.”
Visitors to this year’s Black Heritage Fair will hear from J. Mason Davis, a prominent retired Birmingham attorney; Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson, who also owns and hosts a show on WJLD radio; and several youth speakers. In addition, the event will feature dancers, Great Migration artifacts, family history exhibits, art displays, quilts, and more.
“Mr. Davis will speak about Great Migration as it relates to African-Americans in the military,” Moore said. “Young people will perform, one lady will display her beautiful quilts, and some [BAAGG] members will trace their families back to slavery and bring pictures of their families through generations.”
Aside from her involvement with BAAGG, Moore stays active with several other organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). She exercises regularly, does public relations and media work, and enjoys traveling both domestically and internationally.
“I’ve been to a lot of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Jamaica. My [second] husband and I went to Hawaii years ago, before he died,” Moore said. “I would like to go to Dubai and South Africa. I’ve been invited to go to Spain and some other countries, but I like to go places where the people look like me. Although there are some black people in Spain, I like to go to countries where I can relate to the people and they can relate to me.”
Because knowledge of history and heritage are so important to Moore, one of the items on her bucket list is to create a TV documentary.
“I’m shooting for next year, maybe Black History Month, but I’d also like to do a segment maybe on the radio or on [a local television station] about the faces of longevity,” she said. “I took digital photography at Lawson State [Community College] last summer, and that was one of the projects I did. It was interesting, and I enjoyed it.”