Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Elmyra Moore Hall, 1896-1980


By Anne M. Boylan, University of Delaware

Voting Rights Advocate

During the short few years that she lived in Wilmington, Delaware, Elmyra (or Elmira) Moore Hall gave time and energy to mobilizing the city's Black women voters, newly enfranchised by the Nineteenth Amendment. In September, 1920, as part of a plan to organize Wilmington into canvassing districts for the upcoming elections, she became chair of the Colored Women's Fifth Ward Republican Club. In that capacity, she worked with club members to hold meetings providing information on the registration and voting process. The group then affiliated with the League of Colored Republican Women, headed by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Delaware's most visible Black suffrage leader. Black women turned out in solid numbers to vote in November.

In February, 1921, Elmyra Hall travelled with Dunbar-Nelson, Blanche Williams Stubbs, Mary J. Woodlen, and two other Delaware Black suffragists to Washington, D.C. for a National Woman's Party conference. Their purpose was to protest the post-1920 disfranchisement of Black women voters in the South. At the national capital, they joined a delegation of sixty Black women leaders, headed by Mary Church Terrell, in lobbying the party and its chair, Alice Paul, in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to enforce the Nineteenth Amendment in states where it was being openly violated. The resolution failed. Upon returning to Wilmington, she participated in political mass meetings aimed at vetting candidates running for a newly constituted city school board. Attendees at the events pledged to vote only for those who would work to improve the city's dismal record of support for Black students and teachers in its segregated schools. Soon thereafter, around 1922, she and her husband returned permanently to their native Alabama.

Elmyra Moore was the youngest of four children of Jerry Moore (1867-1949) and Julia Parrish Moore (1877-1950). Born on July 10, 1896 and named for her maternal grandmother, Elmira Parrish, Elmyra grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where her father worked in the city's steel mills and her mother worked as a private duty nurse. Her only surviving sibling, William Jerry Moore (1892-1964), became a teacher and school principal in Birmingham after graduating from Atlanta's Morehouse College. In 1916, Elmyra Moore married Birmingham native Lewis Richard Hall (L. R. Hall or L. Richard Hall, 1890-1959). A local Baptist minister performed the ceremony.

The couple's sojourn in Wilmington was brief. They appeared both in Wilmington's 1920 census and in Birmingham's. When Richard went to Birmingham in 1922 to attend his mother's funeral, a Wilmington paper described him as "prominent" in that city's masonic societies. Yet by 1924 both Richard and Elmyra were back home, living with Elmyra's family in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Birmingham. Elmyra taught school, first at Ensley Elementary School, and later at Ensley Junior High School and Sherman Heights Elementary School. The 1930 census lists the couple living together in Birmingham with Elmyra's parents. They had no children at that time. In 1941, she graduated from the teacher training program at Miles Memorial College, a Methodist institution in Fairfield, Alabama, just west of Birmingham.

For his part, Richard, known locally as L. R. Hall, attended Talladega College, about fifty miles east of Birmingham, and throughout his life remained a loyal alumnus as well as a devoted member of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha (Elmyra was president of the Alpha Wives club in 1954). His funeral was held at the college. As a businessman, Richard attained success working in two enterprises that, in Black urban communities, were often linked: insurance and funeral services. At his death in 1959, he was vice-president of the Booker T. Washington Burial Insurance Company and the Smith and Gaston funeral home, both of which operated out of the same modern building in Birmingham. The building auditorium was posthumously named for him.

Whether Elmyra Moore Hall continued to engage in voting rights political activism after returning to her native state is unclear. Available sources provide evidence only of her teaching career and involvement in supporting community institutions, such as the "colored" YWCA and the Community Chest. But then, given the climate of extreme racial violence that enveloped Birmingham during her years there, epitomized by the twenty-six-year reign of "Bull" Connor as commissioner of public safety, any direct action was fraught with great danger. She lived long enough, however, to hear of or read Martin Luther King's 1963 "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," see the passage of the 24th Amendment (1964), which ended Alabama's oppressive poll tax, and Congressional enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which finally ended the decades-long disfranchisement of the state's Black voters. Elmyra Hall died in Birmingham on September 24, 1980 and was buried with her husband at the New Grace Hill Cemetery in Birmingham.


Biographical details on the Moore and Hall families can be traced in censuses, city directories, and genealogical records available on and The Social Security death index and provided the preferred spelling of her name; the Social Security index provided correct birth and death dates. Delaware and Birmingham newspapers digitized on proved very helpful in tracing Elmyra Moore Hall's life and work, as did digitized Black newspapers from Philadelphia and Baltimore. Note that newspapers used both spellings of her first name interchangeably.

These newspaper articles and obituaries provided useful information: "Colored Women in Republican Club," Wilmington Evening Journal, September 9, 1920, p. 8; "Show Women How to Vote," Wilmington Evening Journal, October 26, 1920, p. 11; "City Charter Gains Support," Wilmington Evening Journal, February 9, 1921, pp. 1, 3; "Colored Women for New Charter," Wilmington Morning News, February 9, 1921, p. 11; "Washington Letter," New York Age, February 19, 1921, p. 2; "World's Largest Burial Insurance Company in Anniversary," The Weekly Review [Birmingham], July 25, 1942, pp. 1, 8; "L. R. Hall," TheBirmingham News, February 1, 1959, p. 18; "Dr. & Mrs. A.G. Gaston Fetes (sic) ‘Old Timers,'" Huntsville Mirror, August 25, 1962, p. 7; "Rites Set Today for W. J. Moore," Birmingham Post-Herald, December 29, 1964, p. 24.

Useful secondary sources include Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: William Morrow, 1984); Anne M. Boylan, Votes for Delaware Women (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2021); and J. Mills Thornton, III, Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002).


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