Louis J. Moore is the president of the Major Taylor Bicycle Club, which attests to his youthful exterior at 70-plus years of age. The majority Black club annually takes intra-state and cross-country bike trips. “We have a very diverse group of people” of members, said Moore.
In addition to his time with Major Taylor, Moore has also been a fixture in Minneapolis youth sports for years. He helped create a diverse youth sports program at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in 1964.
“We saw a lot of kids wanting to do something at the park,” he recalled. “Each year we have [football] teams in each [age] division either [as] champions or at least runners-up. The teams were composed of Black kids and White kids” from both sides of Nicollet Avenue, the seemingly racial residential dividing line in South Minneapolis.
“They learned to play together [and] travel together,” continued Moore. “Their parents learned to enjoy each other’s company. I think we had a pretty successful program. We were able to develop a program that also encompassed basketball and running track. We ran [it] from 1964 until 1980.”
Moore didn’t just blaze a trail in sports, his home purchase in the mid-1960s — where he and his wife still live today — was historic as they would become the block’s first Black family.
Moore pointed out that he and his wife weren’t looking to make history back in 1964 or essentially become “blockbusters,” they just wanted to buy the house they loved in the area they wanted to live.
“Blockbusting” was an illegal real estate practice that began in the 1950s and into the ’60s, and mainly employed in Northern cities to convince White homeowners to sell their homes at low prices based on fears and myths that Blacks were coming in, which would result in lower property values. Then these White real estate agents would turn around and sell these homes to Blacks at higher prices.
“We found this little house… [it] had all the things my wife and I had been talking about. The house was owned by two little White ladies who were twin [sisters]. They were ready to retire to Florida.”
He continued, “The real estate agent was scared to death. He showed us all types of properties” but only in certain areas, he added.
But the house sellers liked the Moore family, especially their then-15-month-old daughter. “They loved her to death. They fell in love with us,” Moore remembered. But at the same time, the realtor was getting pressure from the homeowners’ neighbors not to sell to the Black family, mainly based on the unfounded fears that once Blacks moved in the neighborhood, the area would drastically go downhill in value.
“It took months to buy the house,” Moore said, as neither the buyers nor sellers refused to give up and move on. He remembered one of the sisters telling the agent, “‘If you can’t sell this house to this wonderful couple, you’re fired and I’ll get somebody else.’”
Eventually, the purchase was completed “and [we] moved in the end of January ,” Moore said proudly.
After that, the block began to change: “We moved in… and a few [White] people moved [out],” Moore said. He remembered being challenged by some White neighbors who didn’t want to believe that he, indeed, lived on the block. Oftentimes he was stopped by local police and asked to account for him being there, even if he was standing in front or near his home, simply because he was Black.
“We are still in the same house [today],” Moore noted. He and his wife raised their three children to adulthood there. The block consists of an even split of Black and White residents as well.
Moore, after years of working as a store manager, later joined the late U.S. Congressman Martin Sabo’s office as a community organizer. “He was one of the old-time politicians,” Moore recalled of Sabo. He also for a time owned and operated a small retail business as well. “It was a lot of work but a good experience,” said Moore.
Finally, Moore’s advice to today’s generation: “They need to talk to old folk once in a while. We do know something, whether you think so or not. That is one thing I think young people need to do.
“They need to understand the history of Minneapolis, and they need to understand what took place in [the ’60s] in Minneapolis” and in this country regarding Black people, Moore advised. “It helps to understand your community, to have achievements in life. I would like to see more [youth] get involved,” said Moore.
Charles Hallman welcomes readers’ responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com