Fred R. Moore (1857-1943) was a self-made man. He was born near Richmond, Virginia to parents who were enslaved. The family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was an infant. Moore served as a confidential messenger for twenty-two years to five Secretaries of the Treasury during the Grant, Hayes, Arthur, and Cleveland administrations. He married Ida Lawrence in 1879, and they had eighteen children. In the late 1880s, their family moved to New York, where Moore took a job at the Western National Bank. After resigning in 1905, he became a Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue.
Moore also entered the publishing field in 1905, when he became the editor of Colored American magazine. In 1907 he became the full-time editor and publisher of The New York Age, a weekly newspaper founded in 1887 and “Devoted to the general interests of the American Citizens of African descent.” Although his Republican opinions were considered conservative by some, Moore was revered in Harlem, in New York City, and throughout the African-American community.
In addition to his position in publishing, Moore was active in political, community, and financial matters. He was Brooklyn’s first African American to be a candidate for the New York Assembly, narrowly losing the 1901 race. Moore was appointed U.S. Minister to Liberia in 1912, but he resigned within a few months without having gone to his post. He was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1927 and in 1929. As Alderman, he brought traffic lights to Harlem and secured funds for Harlem Hospital, a new police station house, and the 369th Infantry Armory.
A leader in Harlem, Moore served as Secretary of the Board of Managers of the Katy Ferguson-Sojourner Truth Homes, president of the Parent-Teacher Association of P.S. 119, trustee of the Monarch Lodge Building Corporation, officer of the National Negro Business League, President of the local Business League, and director of Dunbar National Bank. He died on March 1, 1943 at his home at 228 West 135th Street, next door to the headquarters of The New York Age at 230 West 135th Street.
In October 1949, community members, government officials, teachers, and students gathered to dedicate the new Fred R. Moore School/P.S. 133 at Fifth Avenue and 130th Street in Harlem. Mrs. Marian Moore Day, youngest daughter of the late editor, spoke at the ceremony. The site of the neighboring playground had been acquired by the City of New York in 1946. It was developed with basketball and handball courts, as well as a softball diamond and a large open area for rollerskating. The playground opened on December 22, 1951.
Former Council Member (now Manhattan Borough President) C. Virginia Fields funded the $885,000 reconstruction of Moore Playground in 1998. As they enter the playground from the northeast, pupils at P.S. 133 and community members encounter a granite and cast-stone replica of the front page of the New York Age, announcing the achievements of Fred R. Moore. The playground features new play equipment, safety surfacing, benches, spray shower, climbing turtles, drinking fountain, drainage and water supply, and resurfaced tennis and basketball courts. The entire site is enclosed with new fencing adorned with steel silhouettes of turtles, birds, and marsh plants.