A. J. Moore High School

In 1875, Professor Alexander James Moore of Paul Quinn College, concerned at the lack of quality education for African American children in Waco, began teaching small groups of young children out of his home. Though Reconstruction Legislature of 1870 eliminated segregation in schools throughout Texas, these laws were appealed by 1873, and most cities like Waco were left without provisions for African American education. Over time, Moore’s classes grew larger and larger, and it became clear that the school, now called the First District Negro School, needed to find some sort of official facility. In 1881, the classes moved to a small four-room frame building which had originally been a hospital at the corner of Clay Avenue and River Street. These classes became known as the Second District Negro School.  In addition to being the first teacher, A. J. Moore served as the school’s first principal from 1881 to 1905. The inaugural graduating class in 1886 contained only five students. In the school’s almost one-hundred years of serving Waco’s children, more than 4,000 students graduated, many continuing on to successful careers.

School officials chose a new location for the school after the main building burned down in 1921. They completed construction on a brick building at 600 South First Street in 1923. This schoolhouse contained 35 classrooms, allowing the school to expand its education of Waco youth. At this time the school obtained the name A. J. Moore High, becoming the only school in the Waco system named for a person. The Waco Tribune-Herald noted that the community chose the name intentionally to honor the selfless legacy of Professor A. J. Moore.

From 1923 to 1952, the school housed kindergarten students through the twelfth grade. From 1952 until the school’s closure in 1971, it provided education for students in the seventh through twelfth grades only. The A. J. Moore High School Handbook, published in 1951, exhorts its students to take responsibility for their own futures, as well as for that of their community. It declares the school’s hopes to offer students a well-rounded education, providing them not only with knowledge, but also the means for achieving success in all areas of life. The handbook calls students to remain loyal to the principles of democracy, encouraging respect for the rights of all citizens.

Space increasingly became an issue as the school continued to grow. Discussions concerning the school’s dilemma noted in particular the poor location of the school, considering the noise coming from the train which ran through the school yard. The overcrowded classrooms only added to the school’s plight. Ultimately, the school closed in 1971, as a result of desegregation and urban renewal projects in Waco.  

In 1997, A. J. Moore Academy was reborn in Waco as a magnet school. Proponents of this school hoped to carry on the traditions begun by Professor Moore in the nineteenth century, encouraging students to remain united. The charter school emphasized areas such as business, engineering, entrepreneurship, and technology in order to help students succeed in secondary education and the workplace. In order to combat budget shortfalls, the school board elected to consolidate A. J. Moore Academy with University High in 2012.

A. J. Moore High School was the first and arguably most successful effort for the provision of systematic and quality education for children of all races in Waco. Until Moore took it upon himself to begin teaching young children, Waco did not have any schools dedicated to the education of African American children. Today, the school remains an important hallmark of the Waco community, providing quality education for students of all races.

 

Images

Faculty (early 1900s)

Faculty (early 1900s)

Some of the first teachers at A. J. Moore High School stand in front of the school. The impact these teachers had upon their students and the community was so great that four schools in Waco were named after several of these faculty members. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A. J. Moore High School

A. J. Moore High School

Constructed in 1923, this campus continued to serve students in Waco until the 1970s when Jefferson-Moore High was established to facilitate integration efforts. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Good English & Activity Club (1939)

Good English & Activity Club (1939)

In addition to providing a quality education for African-American children in Waco, Moore High offered various extracurricular activities for students to participate in. These students worked with faculty member Mrs. Clark outside of regular class to study English. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

High School Faculty (1940)

High School Faculty (1940)

In order to cope with a lack of resources and funding, A. J. Moore High teachers often used their own salaries in order to provide educational materials for their students. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Pep Squad (1946)

Pep Squad (1946)

Whether it was the school's competitive sports teams or the faculty's dedication to equipping students for lifelong success, A. J. Moore High School gave its pep squad much to cheer about. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Football Team (1946)

Football Team (1946)

Sports teams at the cash-strapped A. J. Moore remained highly competitive with larger schools throughout Texas. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Doris Miller

Doris Miller

A former Moore High student and navy cook, Doris Miller was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Unfortunately, he was killed in action in 1943. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Dedication Ceremony of the Doris Miller Memorial (1944)

Dedication Ceremony of the Doris Miller Memorial (1944)

Faculty and students dedicate a memorial presented by the Surtrust T. Wilson Thrift Club to Doris Miller in 1944. He attended Moore High in the 1930s before joining the navy. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Audio

A Three Mile Walk to A.J. Moore High School

Robert Aguilar remembers questioning why the African American students had to walk to school in the late 1950s. | Source: Aguilar, Robert, interviewed by Thomas Lee Charlton, September 29, 2005, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Principal Wilson's Requirements in the 1930s

Vivienne Malone-Mayes speaks of what Principal Wilson required the teachers of A.J. Moore to do. | Source: Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille, interviewed by Rebecca M. Sharpless, August 5, 1987, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Classes Available at A.J. Moore in the 1940s

Vivienne Malone-Mayes speaks of the classes she took at A.J. Moore High School. | Source: Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille, interviewed by Rebecca M. Sharpless, August 5, 1987, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

The Great Teachers of A.J. Moore in the 1960s

Phyllus Flowers passionately tells about how encouraging her teachers were at A.J. Moore High School in the 1960s. | Source: Flowers, Phyllus, interviewed by Aaron Ward, April 3, 2003, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amanda Sawyer, “A. J. Moore High School,” Waco History, accessed June 24, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/22.
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