In Memoriam: Christopher Moore (1952-2022)
December 1, 2022
By K.C. Matthews
I consider former Landmarks Commissioner Christopher Moore, in many ways, the “Alex Haley” of the African American presence in New York City, in that he was able to trace and document his family’s presence in New York back to the Dutch, bringing to his discussions a personal lens that reflected his New York lineage, both African and Indigenous. In his presentation of that history and its role in the evolution of New York, he conveyed a plain-spoken sense of pride, dignity, and gravitas that was inspiring.
A graduate of Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater and journalism, Moore started his career in the city as a news editor for the National Black Network, and as an actor in a television soap opera and in an Off-Broadway production of A Soldier’s Play. Chris went on to become a research coordinator at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where he curated numerous exhibitions, articles, and publications for that institution. He served as a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission staff for two decades and wrote the reports for several Harlem landmarks, including Abyssinian Baptist Church, prior to becoming a commissioner.
I last saw Chris at a talk I gave at Columbia University on Harlem’s Black and Jewish music culture. Knowing that he had been recovering from a variety of health issues, I was surprised and delighted to see him in the audience. In my shout-out acknowledging his presence, I reminisced at what a delight it always was to run into him on the streets of Harlem! Those exchanges were always like rounds of Jeopardy, curbside exchanges of stories and facts about Harlem, its diverse players and history. He was the greatest supporter and booster of whatever you were doing, generous with his knowledge and humorous in the telling. He was a very special person.
K.C. Matthews serves as Deputy Director, Operations & External Engagement, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.