Michael Moran

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Notes of Newark Legal Services Project on witness accounts of the death of Michael Moran. (Junius Williams Collection)

Michael Moran was a captain in the Newark Fire Department and lived at 66 Eastern Parkway with his wife, Ann, and six children. Moran, a 15-year veteran in the fire department, would help out with chores at a charity mission, the Little Sisters of the Poor, on Central Avenue in his off-duty time.

Around 10:00 P.M. Saturday, July 15th, Michael Moran was at Fire House Eleven on Central Avenue when .30 caliber bullets struck the side of the building. Believing that they were under attack from snipers, the firemen inside hit the lights and dropped to the floor.

This gunfire, however, came from a National Guard checkpoint at Central Avenue and 9th Street, where guardsmen were shooting at a car driven by Howard Edwards. On his way from Staten Island to visit a co-worker in Newark, Edwards and his brother were startled by Guardsmen and ran through a blockade. As guardsmen along the avenue responded by firing at the car, shots hit the firehouse and a stray bullet hit a sprinkler pipe inside a factory at 500 Central Avenue. This triggered the factory’s alarm system, which had a direct link to Fire House Eleven down the block.

Minutes later, Michael Moran and his fire company responded to the alarm coming from the factory across Central Avenue from Fire House Eleven. Moran stood at ground level of the building, about a block from the National Guard blockade at South 9th Street, as his men rolled out the hose and raised a 30-foot ladder to the upper floors of the factory.

Newark Fire Director John P. Caufield was outside the building with Moran as firemen hoisted up the ladder. “I stood on one side of the ladder and Capt. Moran on the other…then, the sniper opened fire. We couldn’t see where the bullets were coming from but we knew from the sound that it was automatic weapon fire.”

“I heard Capt. Moran say ‘I’m hit,” Caufield continued. “He slumped down behind the truck. One of the guardsmen was hit, too.”

Moran was hit in the left side by a bullet that had ricocheted off the building wall. According to journalist Ron Porambo, “Moran was facing the building so the shots had to come from the left—from down the street where the string of roadblocks were. It is extremely probable that the guns which had come so close to taking Edwards’ head off were the same weapons responsible for Mike Moran’s death.”

Howard Edwards was widely blamed for shooting Moran, but he was never charged for the crime. Many accounts refute either Edwards or his brother possessing or discharging a firearm.

Moran was rushed to Presbyterian Hospital by Battalion Chief David Kinnear, but succumbed to his injuries on the way there.

Michael Moran was dead at the age of 41 after having been shot while responding to a fire alarm near a National Guard blockade. “A lot of the firemen came up to the hospital when they heard the news,” Fire Director Caufield recalled. “We were all in tears.”

The Essex County Grand Jury found “no cause for indictment” of any alleged snipers or any law enforcement officers involved.

References:

Ronald Porambo, No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark

Witness Testimony of Denise Harris before the Essex County Grand Jury

Who’s Coming In, Who’s Going Out?

World War II kicked off the second Great Migration, as African Americans from the South sought better living conditions in Newark and other cities. Between 1940 and 1950, the African American population of Newark increased from 45,760 to 74,965—growing from 10.7% to 17.2% of the city’s total population. In many ways, this population influx marked a tipping point for recognition.

For most of Newark, the depression ended. “Help wanted “ signs went up. But African Americans could not always find a job. The New Jersey Afro-American wrote in 1941 that while contracts for nearly a billion and a half dollars in government defense orders have been placed with firms in New Jersey, the Urban League finds that these firms have steadfastly refused to hire colored workers.”

 

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“Help wanted “ signs went up. But African Americans could not always find a job.
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But some African Americans did find employment. Jobs for blacks in the Newark defense workforce improved from 4% in 1942, to 8.8% in 1943. With the overall economy booming, Newark’s downtown stores began hiring some African Americans as elevator operators and janitors. Large restaurants hired blacks as chefs, cooks and waiters—they could work, but not sit down to eat. The war years helped enhance the prospects of some, while still denying prosperity for the many.

Whites Begin to Leave

Around 1947, the white middle class started deserting Newark for the suburbs, along with the businesses that sustained them. The post World-War II boom was good for businesses for a while, but factories, schools, and streets had been neglected during the war. Overcrowding was a problem, especially in the ghettos. These conditions made the suburbs very attractive as alternatives to Newark.

The G.I. Bill of Rights and FHA loans made it easier for whites to buy a house, and brand new highways built by the federal government with taxpayers’ dollars made it easier to drive those new automobiles to the suburbs, in Essex County and further west. These same mortgages were unavailable to most African Americans; and most suburbs were off limits.

 

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These same mortgages were unavailable to most African Americans; and most suburbs were off limits.
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But Newark’s heterogeneous ethnic character remained intact in the early and mid-1950s. Newark was described as follows by writer Joseph Conforti:

The Germans had given way to the Irish who in 1950 shared political power with an Italian and a Jew. The ethnic division of the city could also be observed less directly. Many occupations were ethnically identifiable: the police and fire departments were overwhelmingly Irish; the construction trades were Italian; the merchants were largely Jewish, the small luncheonettes were Greek, the large businesses were owned and operated by WASPs, skilled craftsmen were likely to be German, and the factory operatives were Irish, Polish and Italian. Even the city’s taxicabs had ethnic identifications…yellow cabs were operated by the Irish, 20th Century cabs by Jews, Brown and White cabs by Italians, and Green cabs by blacks.

Newark’s Changing Demographics

Ghettoization continued in Newark. By 1940, the Third Ward (today’s Central Ward) alone contained more than 16,000 black residents. By 1944 nearly one third of the apartments and housing in the black areas were below the standards of minimum decency. Some houses still had outside bathrooms.

The slums were among the worst in the nation. The situation was particularly grim for African Americans, clustered on “the hill” just west of the Essex County Court House. Public Housing did not help a lot. There were 7 low-income projects finished before the war, but by 1946, there were 2,110 white families and only 623 black families in the buildings. Four of the projects housed no black people. The best low-rise public housing, such as Bradley Court, was reserved for whites; while the poorest units, such as F.D.R. Homes, were reserved for blacks. Ultimately, the majority of African Americans were steered into the growing number of high rise public housing which just happened to be built in the center city where black people had been confined beginning at the turn of the 20th century.

 

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Four of the projects housed no black people.
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The 1950 Census showed the trend in population increases for blacks, and decrease by whites. Newark’s total population rose only slightly from 429,760 in 1940 to 438,776 in 1950. Black residents had increased from 45,760 to 74,965—more than a 60% increase. When newspapers took a look at the faces of misery, increasingly they were black.

Even though the city began hemorrhaging jobs (250 manufacturers left between 1950-60; 1,300 manufactures left during the 1960s), the more dramatic change in the city’s socioeconomic structure was the rapidly changing composition of the city’s population.

African Americans were rapidly become politically and economically obsolete in a city where they would soon be in the majority. Segregation and discrimination by race and class defined Newark’s offering to the city’s newest immigrants.

Listen to the people speak about their experiences as newcomers to Newark below…

Capt. Michael Moran’s son, Mike Moran, speaks about his father’s death with Karen Yi. — Credit: NJ Advance Media

Newspaper Article on Death of Michael Moran

Newspaper Article on Death of Michael Moran

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Article from the Star-Ledger on July 16, 1967 covering the shooting of Newark Fire Captain Michael Moran. — Credit: The Star-Ledger

Newspaper Article on Michael Moran

Newspaper Article on Michael Moran

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Article from the Star-Ledger on July 17, 1967 covering the shooting of Newark Fire Captain Michael Moran.  — Credit: The Star-Ledger

Grand Jury Report on Death of Michael Moran

Grand Jury Report on Death of Michael Moran

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Grand Jury report on the fatal shooting of Michael Moran, on July 15, 1967. The Grand Jury found “no cause for indictment.” — Credit: Newark Public Library

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