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Pioneering Black Oklahoma educator Dr. Frederick Douglass (F.D.) Moon was so influential that a school is named after him, but his legacy was vandalized on Thursday by State Superintendent Ryan Walters.
Even after winning the election for control of Oklahoma’s public education system, Ryan Walters has remained in campaign mode, demonizing diversity and threatening teachers.
On Thursday, Walters directed his team to remove the portraits of historic educators from the Educators Hall of Fame wall, according to the Oklahoman.
For decades the first-floor hallway leading to the state Board of Education meeting room displayed the portraits of legendary educators, from former State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister to Frances Tuttle, the “architect” of Oklahoma’s vocational-technical schools, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
From a boy educated in segregated schools to serving as the first African-American president of the Oklahoma City Board of Education, F.D. Moon blazed a trail for his community during the tense years of integration.
Yet that doesn’t appear to matter to Ryan Walters.
Ryan Walters continues campaign-style attacks on Black history, public education
“Union leaders and association heads are not what we will highlight,” Walters told The Oklahoman. “We are focused on empowering parents and kids with the best education possible. Those are the stories I will be showing in the halls of (the Education Department) during my term, not union bosses.”
He takes taxpayer-funded salaries in his dual position as both Gov. Stitt’s appointed Secretary of Education and elected State Superintendent. Walters has unapologetically attacked public school teachers as he targets DEI initiatives, threatens teacher’s licenses, and seeks to cut raises to educators across the state.
His latest decision to erase the visible history of Oklahoma’s most famous educators has drawn rebuke from public education groups.
“Just like his mentor Janet Barresi, Ryan Walters has dismantled the Educators Hall of Fame “Wall of Honor” from the State Department of Education,” Oklahomans For Public Education posted on Twitter. Walters responded by continuing his effort to pit teachers against parents.
“The hallway will soon be filled with photographs capturing the beautiful moments and faces of students and parents from across Oklahoma,” Walters’ spokesperson, Justin Holcomb, wrote in a statement to the Oklahoman.
F.D. Moon was determined to provide education for all
F.D. Moon was born in the small town of Fallis outside of Oklahoma City on May 4, 1896, a decade before Oklahoma was admitted to the Union. There were no high schools for Black Americans like F.D. Moon to attend in his area.
In the ninth grade, he entered Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University, which would later become Langston, the state’s only HBCU, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. It’s unclear whether Ryan Walters took the time to learn about the man whose portrait he removed.
By 1929, Moon had finished his high school education and earned a bachelor’s degree in science. He secured a master’s degree in arts at the University of Chicago in 1938 after spending years as a teacher in Oklahoma.
Lighting a torch that couldn’t be extinguished, F.D. Moon began teaching at Crescent, Oklahoma in 1921, the same year a White mob destroyed 36 square blocks of Historic Greenwood, home to Black Wall Street.
Recognizing his leadership, the Oklahoma Association of Negro Teachers elected him president in 1929. Gaining experience as a teacher and principal at Wewoka Douglass High School, F.D. Moon married his love, Leoshia Harris, in 1935. He then moved to Oklahoma City and soared even higher.
From 1940 to 1961, Moon served as principal of Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, developing a reputation as the “dean” of African American education in Oklahoma.
His legacy rose to its highest height in 1972, when he was elected to the OKC Board of Education. Two years later, he would help oversee federally mandated integration in the community as the first Black person to serve as OKC Board of Education president.
A man who served on various boards and urban organizations, Moon was also a member of the National Education Association, a fact apparently not respected by today’s State Superintendent Ryan Walters.
State Superintendent Ryan Walters bullies public school teachers
News of Walters’ desecration of the Educators Hall of Fame came as a “shock” to the wall’s leadership, but it was no surprise to those who’ve been following his antics for months.
As if he’s competing with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, some have accused Walters of trying to dismantle public education.
Ryan Walters has sought to lower a teacher pay raise in the state’s budget, gone after the licenses of individual teachers who refuse to limit their discussions on race in the classroom, and he appeared to have no problem with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt removing the only Black person from the State Board of Education.
“There are very well organized efforts that allow for us to hear certain voices more loudly than others, and I just hope that parents and families and educators don’t remain silent. Come, speak, act, organize, and remain a voice to be reckoned with,” Carlisha Williams Bradley told The Black Wall Street Times in an exclusive interview after her removal from the board.
A year after achieving his highest honor, F.D. Moon passed away amidst declining health on December 16, 1975. The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame inducted Moon in 1988, where his portrait has remained for all to see, until Ryan Walters decided to have it removed along with all the others.
Yet his legacy and namesake can never be visibly erased. F.D. Moon Middle School in Oklahoma City, established in 1963, continues to operate in his honor, reminding new generations of his intergenerational impact.