He’s the only member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from Miami. He marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and often sang at his rallies. And last year, he performed “America the Beautiful” at President Donald Trump’s inaugural concert. Now, HistoryMiami has given Sam Moore, of the famed soul duo Sam & Dave, his own exhibit in his hometown.
Grayscale animated scenes of Moore’s pre-civil rights movement upbringing cover the walls around a pedestal displaying Moore’s 1967 Grammy and a platinum plaque for the Sam & Dave classic “Soul Man.”
The exhibition opened last night with a discussion between Moore and Marvin Dunn, former chairman of the Department of Psychology at Florida International University and author of Black Miami in the Twentieth Century. Dunn spoke about the history of this city’s black communities and of a time when “you saw more Seminole Indians downtown than Cubans.” Dunn asserted that the civil rights movement began in Miami in 1945, when blacks staged a “wade-in” at Haulover Beach.
Seated next to the 82-year-old Moore, Dunn told of a pre-civil rights era in Miami when blacks and whites attended the same clubs in Overtown, but whites still sat up front. The managers were black, he says, but the owners were white.
Moore said he grew up blissfully unaware of segregation and focused on his dream of becoming a minister. The first time he heard the “N-word,” he says, was after he became famous in his early 30s.
The discussion between Moore and Dunn, titled “Music and the Civil Rights Movement,” aimed to explore the role music played in social justice movements in Miami during the 1960s, but it wound up highlighting the schism in approaches toward addressing today’s movements.
Dunn detailed the ways in which white communities exploited black Miami in the post-World War II era. But Moore took exception to blaming one particular race or community and suggested the name of today’s Black Lives Matter movement is inherently divisive.
Though he sang at Trump’s inauguration, which some have criticized, it’s clear he views his participation as an apolitical, patriotic duty. Moore has performed for all five living former presidents. A painting in the exhibit shows Moore, microphone in hand, with Presidents Obama, Clinton, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush standing behind him.
“What I’m getting now, do I deserve [it]? I don’t know,” Moore tells New Times. “But whatever I’m getting, I’m thankful, I’m grateful, and I want to do better. I want my work to go on forever. Let’s look at it like this: Here’s a young fella that comes out of Florida, that has sung before five presidents… shared the stage with some of the biggest artists in the world, with no formal education as far as music… Don’t you think that means a lot from a guy that’s coming from here? I think so. I think my name has become bigger than me, and that’s OK.”