When Caucasian retired pastor Charles Moore (pictured) set himself on fire on June 23rd at a Grand Saline, Texas, step mall parking lot, he was reportedly prayerful that his act of suicide did not go in vain. Moore, who had dedicated his life to fighting against racism, left behind a suicide note that reportedly states he has decided to kill himself because he was haunted by the yester-year lynchings of African Americans and wanted his death to inspire social reform, according to the New York Daily News. The 79-year-old United Methodist clergyman’s note, which was left on his vehicle’s windshield, reportedly stated:
“Many African-Americans were lynched around here. I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned,” he wrote.
According to police, the Harvard Divinity School graduate drove to the parking lot of a dollar store in the very same home town where racism reigned supreme and lynchings were a common occurrence once upon a time. Moore then doused himself with gasoline and struck a match. Witnesses tried to extinguish the flames; Moore was pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital. The letter Moore left also described how the cruel and inhumane racist acts he had witnessed a young child never stopped troubling his soul: “When I was about 10 years old, some friends and I were walking down the road toward the creek to catch some fish, when a man called ‘Uncle Billy’ stopped us and called us into his home for a drink of water — but his real purpose was to cheerily tell us about helping to kill ‘n–s’ and put their heads up on a pole,” he wrote. “A section of Grande Saline was (maybe still is) called ‘pole town,’ where the heads were displayed. It was years later before I knew what the name meant.
The man who was a true devotee to selfless acts of compassion took on many social causes throughout his life. Besides being an active civil rights supporter, Moore went on a two-week hunger strike in the ’90s to herald the rights of homosexuals. He also spoke against the death penalty and sexism as well. Working in a slum in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and traveling to work in developing nations in Africa and the Middle East were also among Moore’s many humanitarian efforts.
Despite all of Moore’s selfless acts, he felt self-immolation would be his ultimate contribution to possibly bringing even more attention to racism: “I have no significant achievements to offer. So I am laying down my life here today, in order to call attention to issues of great human concern.”
By Ruth Manuel-Logan