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On this date in 1887, we remember the birth of Tim Moore, a Black actor, and entertainer.
Harry Roscoe "Tim" Moore was the son of Harry and Cynthia Moore from Rock Island, IL, where he began his show business career as a child shuffling and singing for passersby on street corners. At the age of 12, Moore and partner Romeo Washburn left Rock Island to join a vaudeville troupe, appearing in an act called Cora Miskel and Her Gold Dust Twins.
At 15, he returned home and worked as a fly-shooer in a stable and then became a fight manager. Moore's talents and skills soon took him to the British music halls. Returning to the States, he joined a medicine show that played vacant lots all over America's Midwest.
Moore began developing his "con-man" character by selling a cure-all potion to gullible customers. His varied career included a stint as a carnival "geek"; in Hawaii, he posed as a native tour guide, taking carloads of tourists around Oahu. Eventually, he toured as a professional boxer named "Young Klondike" and earned $110,000, winning 84 of 104 fights.
Following this, Moore developed a one-man version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." He portrayed both Simon Legree and Uncle Tom, performing with one half of his face made up of white chalk and the other with burnt cork. Moore also toured on the Black vaudeville circuit, commonly appearing with his wife, Gertrude.
In the 1920s, Moore teamed up with Mantan Moreland, working with "Blackbirds of 1928." Moore appeared in several Black musical revues over 15 to 20 years, including "Fast and Furious," "Take the Air," "Shuffle Along," "Harlem Scandals," and "Rhapsody in Black." Moore wrote nearly all of his material and skits for other performers. W.C. Fields bought one of his sketches, “Not a Fit Night for Man nor Beast.” Some of the Moore films were "His Great Chance," 1923, "Darktown Revue," and Oscar Micheaux Films, 1931.
He also appeared on a Westinghouse radio series program in 1934. He also appeared with the Donald Heywood Choir in 1950. Moore made some appearances on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" television program and appeared at the Apollo Theatre.
By the beginning of the 1950s, he had retired to his native Rock Island; Moore had already been in show business for 50 years when he was chosen to play the role of George "Kingfish" Stevens in the television version of the wildly popular "Amos 'n' Andy" radio show. The show ran from June 28, 1951, on CBS through June 11, 1953. The Amos 'n' Andy Show was the 13th highest-rated show during its first year on the air. For that same season, the top-rated show was Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. Tim Moore died in December 1958.
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.