Black man’s life mattered for Dixieland students


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Dixieland School teacher Angela Lindsey puts a piece of a broken headstone in place at the grave of a former slave, Gabriel Bibbard Moore, during a ceremony on Nov 2.

Students from Dixieland School, complete with masks and maintaining social distancing, gathered on, Nov. 2, for a special ceremony at the pioneer Akers Cemetery in Centerville.

Accompanied by their teacher from last year, Angela Lindsay, and Dixieland principal Lorie King, the students met at the graveyard to pay homage to ex-slave Gabriel Moore and to unveil Madera Unified’s latest Madera Method project—the book they wrote about his life, entitled, “Twenty-seven years a Free Man; The Journal of Gabriel Bibbard Moore.”

After a welcome and introductions by King, Lindsay emceed the tribute, which included the National Anthem and presentation of the published book and its authors. Two students, Melanie Mendez and Sean Fitzgerald read excerpts from parts of the book each had written.

The student work was accomplished last school year while they were in Lindsay’s 8th grade class. Working from original, primary source documents, such as census reports, probate records, old newspaper articles, and tax rolls, the young historians compiled a chronology of the ex-slave’s life and wrote a fictional diary based upon the solid facts of their research. Modeling their writing on author Irving Stone’s blueprint for a biographical novel, each student assumed Moore’s identity and made a journal entry that the former slave could have written.

The journal tells the story of Moore’s life, from his birth as a slave in Alabama in 1812 to his emancipation in 1853, when he was brought to California by his owners.

The tale continues with an account of Moore’s being denied the right to vote in 1871 by the Fresno County Clerk because of his race and his rise to prosperity through farming. Moore was drowned in 1880 while attempting to cross the Kings River on horseback.

In 1965, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, someone went out to the cemetery and smashed Moore’s tombstone. Recently the students obtained a large piece of the damaged marker, and they used it as the culmination of their ceremony.

While “Amazing Grace” filled the air from a recording, Lindsay slowly walked to the broken marker and placed the missing piece firmly in place. The students then paid a floral tribute to Moore by laying flowers at his tombstone.

Thus, the students honored Gabriel Moore by picking up the pieces of his life and death. They put the pieces of his life in their book, and they put the pieces from his death back on his tombstone. In one sense, the man people called “Uncle Gabe” has been resurrected.

Co-authors with Fitzgerald and Mendez, were Bernard Barron, Joseph Diaz Alvarado, Abel Elisarraz, Yarettsi Flores-Zamora, Lilia Gonzalez, Magdaley Herrera-Martinez, Belinda Higareda-Vasquez, Yasmin Moreno Magadaleno, Evelyn Munoz, Alondra Rojas, Anthony Vega, and Fabi Xi. The students’ book will be in all of the MUSD school libraries and in the Madera County Library.

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