Moore, Bai T., 1916-1988

Variant names

Hide Profile

Bai Tamiah Moore was born in the village of Dimeh, 20 miles from Monrovia, and given the name Tamiah. Though the exact date of Moore’s birth was not recorded, it has been approximated as either sometime in 1916 or in October, 1920 . The village in which he grew up was ruled by the Dei ethnic group, but was also inhabited by the Gola, Vai, Mandingo, and Bassa peoples. Moore’s parentage was both Vai and Gola, but he identified himself as Vai, using the criteria of patrilineal descent, language, and name. He spoke the indigenous languages of Gola, Vai, Vassa, and Dei. His maternal grandmother was a great and respected storyteller in her home village of Janney. Both his ethnic background and the importance of storytelling in his family were great influences in his life.

Moore was the sixth of seven children, with two older brothers, three older sisters, and one younger brother. Moore's father died while he was a young child, forcing his mother and his older siblings to support the family. Because two of his older sisters were attending an indigenous school for women in nearby Sande, his mother chose to remain in Dimeh after her husband’s death, rather than return to her home village of Janney. While he was still a young boy, Moore's oldest cousin convinced his mother to allow Moore to visit their relatives in Janney . This trip was supposed to last only “a few moons,” but it stretched into a few years. Moore's stay in Janney proved to be very influential in his life because he was immersed and nurtured in the rich culture of the Gola ethnic group while living with his mother’s family. Also as a result of his move to Janney, Moore had his first taste of western culture. After learning his distant cousin attended a mission school in nearby Bendoo, Moore obtained permission to visit the school and to stay with the missionaries who ran it. Soon after his arrival, he was enrolled as a student. There was a large ethnic mix present at the school–Vai, Gola, Mandingo, Kpessi, Basso, Kru and Americo-Liberian students attended. Moore learned English at Bendoo, and there his name was changed to Johnson Moore-Johnson after Reverend R. O. Johnson, and Moore after the Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia that supported the mission. Mommie Bouey, one of the missionaries who ran the school, was so impressed by Moore that she decided he should be given the opportunity to travel to America .

After Moore's mother and grandmother died, he returned to Janney uncertain about whether he wanted to continue his schooling at Bendoo. During this period, he was initiated into the Poro, the male society that educates adolescent boys in the culture of the Gola and officially declares them to have reached manhood. It was at the ceremony signifying his acceptance into the Poro that Moore was given the name Bai/Bye, to be placed before his birth name Tamiah. Henceforth, he would be known as Bai T. Moore . After entering the Poro, he traveled extensively through Gola Country, a journey that would forever flavor his writings.

On August 3, 1929, Mommie Bouey’s promise of sending him to America was finally fulfilled and he departed from Monrovia with Bouey’s husband, Reverend Bouey. Mrs. Bouey and the reverend’s brother, John Bouey, met them when their ship, the S. S. West Ke-Bar, docked in Philadelphia on September 4 . From Philadelphia, the Boueys took Moore to Richmond, Virginia, where Moore attended the public high school.

After graduating from high school in 1934, he went on to Virginia Union University where he received a B.A. in biology in 1938 . Though he considered going on to medical school, he was unable to do so for lack of scholarship and personal funds. Moore instead began working in Washington, D. C. , while taking graduate courses at Howard University. Moore had a number of interesting jobs during the twelve years he remained in the U.S., including working as newspaper boy, busboy, dishwasher , bellhop and chauffeur .

Moore's aptitude for writing was evident early in his education, particularly when he began contributing to his high school’s publications. Moore's first attempts at writing poetry imitated the voices and styles of American and European poets. When he began to draw from his experiences in Liberia, it was clear that they would be a major source of inspiration and material for his work in the future. He wrote primarily in English, though he did occasionally write in the Vai language, as well.

After returning to Liberia in 1941, Bai T. Moore decided to explore his ethnic heritage extensively. He traveled all over Liberia collecting Vai folktales, and those of other ethnic groups, as well. Moore then settled down to life as a writer, and in time, he accepted a post as a government official. He first took on the position of Chief of the Bureau of Agriculture in the Liberian Department of the Interior, and in 1980, that of Deputy Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism . Upon retiring in 1986, he became a senior advisor and mentor for the Liberian Association of Writers/Society of Liberian Authors, where he worked until his death of a heart attack on Sunday, January 10, 1988.

From the guide to the Bai T. Moore Papers, 1919-2004, (Liberian Collections

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Warren d'Azevedo Collection, 1935-2001 Liberian Collections
creatorOf Bai T. Moore Papers, 1919-2004 Liberian Collections
referencedIn Peter Sevareid Papers, 1975-2004 Liberian Collections
referencedIn Warren d'Azevedo Collection, 1935-2001 Liberian Collections
creatorOf Nichols, Lee. [Liberia, Monrovia, Interview with Bai T. Moore, 1975] [sound recording] / collected by Lee Nichols. Indiana University, Archives of Traditional Music
referencedIn Bai T. Moore Papers, 1919-2004 Liberian Collections
referencedIn Bai T. Moore Papers, 1919-2004 Liberian Collections
referencedIn Holsoe County Surveys, 1981-1994 Liberian Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith A. & A. Enterprises. corporateBody
associatedWith Abrahams, R. D person
associatedWith African Cultural Institute corporateBody
associatedWith African Studies Association corporateBody
associatedWith Allen, C. W person
associatedWith Armstrong High School corporateBody
associatedWith Asante, B. person
associatedWith Bai T. Moore person
associatedWith Bai T. Moore's person
associatedWith Bai T. Moore’s person
associatedWith Barrows, L. C. person
associatedWith Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute corporateBody
associatedWith Booker Washington Institute corporateBody
correspondedWith Brown, A. K. person
associatedWith BTM person
associatedWith Bureau of Folklore, Interior Department corporateBody
associatedWith Bureau of Natural Resources and Surveys corporateBody
associatedWith Butch Moore person
correspondedWith Calvin, Nimene person
correspondedWith Carey, Robert D. person
associatedWith Cleveland Public Schools corporateBody
associatedWith Conference on Manding Studies corporateBody
correspondedWith Cooper, Sandei person
associatedWith Cristea, I. person
associatedWith Cuttington College corporateBody
correspondedWith Davis, William R., Jr. person
correspondedWith d'Azevedo, Warren person
associatedWith Department of Agriculture corporateBody
associatedWith Department of Information and Cultural Affaris corporateBody
associatedWith Department of Planning and Economic Affairs corporateBody
associatedWith Department of Public Instruction corporateBody
associatedWith Department of the Interior corporateBody
associatedWith Doe, Samuel person
correspondedWith Doe, Samuel K. person
associatedWith Dorliae, P. G. person
associatedWith Dunn, D. E. person
associatedWith Economic Community of West African States corporateBody
associatedWith Embassy of the United States of America corporateBody
correspondedWith Gbessey, Boima person
correspondedWith Gbewolo, Joe-Weiga person
correspondedWith Gordon, John C. person
associatedWith Gram Sevaks person
correspondedWith Green/Moore, Tabitha person
associatedWith Guannu, J. S person
associatedWith Guerry, V person
associatedWith Harlem Urban Development Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Henries, A. D. B person
associatedWith Hobley, J. M. person
associatedWith Hodges, N person
correspondedWith Holsoe, Svend person
associatedWith Holsoe, Svend E. person
correspondedWith Humphrey, Hubert person
correspondedWith Hyman, Mark person
associatedWith Information Department corporateBody
associatedWith International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences corporateBody
associatedWith Jackie Moore person
correspondedWith James, Edna E. person
associatedWith Johnson, J. person
associatedWith Jones, A. B. person
associatedWith Karlee, V. person
associatedWith Legislature corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Development Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Embassy corporateBody
associatedWith Liberia News Agency corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Information Service corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Institute of Public Administration corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Rural Communications Network corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Studies Association corporateBody
associatedWith Louisiana World Exposiiton corporateBody
associatedWith Mano River Union corporateBody
correspondedWith McClain, Johnny A. person
associatedWith Ministry of Commerce corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Education corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Finance corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Foreign Affairs corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Justice corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Land and Mines corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Local Government corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of National Defense corporateBody
associatedWith Ministry of Public Works corporateBody
associatedWith Moked, G. person
associatedWith Moore, B. T. person
associatedWith Moore, J person
correspondedWith Moore (Tulay), Gillian Loba person
correspondedWith Naigrow, Peter L. person
associatedWith National Assembly corporateBody
associatedWith Nichols, L person
associatedWith Nwankwo, A. A. person
correspondedWith Ofri, Dorith person
associatedWith Organization of African Unity corporateBody
associatedWith Palomar Community College corporateBody
associatedWith Pan African Cultural Festival corporateBody
associatedWith Peace Corps corporateBody
associatedWith People’s Redemption Council corporateBody
associatedWith Porte, Albert person
correspondedWith Richards, Vanjah R. person
associatedWith Roberts, Joseph Jenkins person
associatedWith Sankawulo, W. person
associatedWith Schulze , Willi person
associatedWith Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture corporateBody
associatedWith Sevareid, Peter person
associatedWith Smith, M. C. person
associatedWith Smith, R. A. person
associatedWith Society of Liberian Authors corporateBody
associatedWith Supreme Court corporateBody
associatedWith Tito Moore person
associatedWith Tolbert, William person
correspondedWith Tolbert, William R., Jr., person
associatedWith Townsend, E. R. person
correspondedWith Townsend, E. Reginald person
correspondedWith Tubman, William V.S., person
correspondedWith Tulay, Frederick K. person
associatedWith UNESCO corporateBody
associatedWith United Nations corporateBody
associatedWith United States Educational and Cultural Foundation in Liberia corporateBody
associatedWith United States Information Agency corporateBody
associatedWith University of Liberia corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Trade Mission corporateBody
associatedWith Virginia Union University corporateBody
associatedWith Von Gnielinski, S. person
associatedWith Webbo Fundamental Education Project corporateBody
correspondedWith Wilson, Donald R. person
associatedWith World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture corporateBody
associatedWith World Conference of Mayors corporateBody
associatedWith World Crafts Council corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1916-10-12

Death 1988-01-10



Ark ID: w6ng6kxz

SNAC ID: 14162657