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Do You Know Mollie Moon?


Mollie Moon in New York, December 11th, 1956. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, Carl Van Vechten Papers Relating to African American Arts and Letters/Beinecke Library
Mollie Moon in New York, December 11th, 1956. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, Carl Van Vechten Papers Relating to African American Arts and Letters/Beinecke Library

In Tanisha C. Ford's latest book, Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon and the Glamour, Money, and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement (Amistad, 2023), the author introduces Mollie Moon, a major fundraiser who supported the civil rights movement. An excerpt from the Goodreads review (read the entire review at the link above):

An engrossing social history of the unsinkable Mollie Moon, the stylish founder of the National Urban League Guild and fundraiser extraordinaire who reigned over the glittering "Beaux Arts Ball,” the social event of New York and Harlem society for fifty years—a glamorous event rivalling today’s Met Gala, drawing America’s wealthy and cultured, both Black and white. Our Secret Society  brilliantly illuminates a little known yet highly significant aspect of the civil rights movement that has been long overlooked—the powerhouse fundraising effort that supported the movement—the luncheons, galas, cabarets, and traveling exhibitions attended by middle-class and working-class Black families, the Negro press, and titans of industry, including Winthrop Rockefeller. No one knew this world better or ruled over it with more authority than Mollie Moon.



Award-winning historian and author Tanisha C. Ford, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, class of 2019. She is a professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Award-winning historian and author Tanisha C. Ford, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, class of 2019. She is a professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.


Author Tanisha Ford was interviewed by Ivelisse Estrada, editor of Radcliffe Magazine, for Harvard Radcliffe Institute. The interview was published in the article "Funding the Civil Rights Movement" December 15, 2023. An excerpt from the interview quoting Ms. Ford:


...I came across the name Mollie Moon in a story from 1961. I realized that she was this major social figure in Harlem society in the 1960s, and that sent me on a quest to collect as many newspaper articles as I could, thinking that I was going to write a book about Mollie Moon, the hostess, and what we could understand about Black culture through parties and entertainment—a material culture deep dive.
During my Radcliffe year, I started to analyze those newspapers that I had collected—at that point, around a thousand clippings—and I realized that her parties were fundraisers, not just parties for parties’ sake. Mollie Moon was inviting people to venues like the Savoy and the Waldorf Astoria, or even her own home, to raise money for the civil rights movement. And I realized that, wow, this is a topic that’s understudied—something that even I, as a historian of the civil rights era, didn’t know. It sent me down a path of discovering the roots and routes that money took to support everything from voter registration drives to freedom rides, major marches like the March on Washington, and an assortment of other justice-related programming.




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