Robert Parris Moses, a civil rights activist who endured beatings and jail while leading Black voter registration drives in the American South during the 1960s and later helped improve minority education in math, has died age 86.
Moses, who was widely referred to as Bob, worked to dismantle segregation as the Mississippi field director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement and was central to the 1964 “Freedom Summer” in which hundreds of students went to the South to register voters.
Moses started his “second chapter in civil rights work” by founding in 1982 the Algebra Project thanks to a MacArthur Fellowship.
Ben Moynihan, the director of operations for the Algebra Project, said ,he had talked with Moses’ wife, Dr. Janet Moses, who said her husband Sunday morning in Hollywood, Florida. Information was not given as to the cause of death.”Bob Moses was a hero of mine.
Moses was born in Harlem, New York, on January 23, 1935, two months after a race riot left 3 dead and injured 60 in the neighborhood. William Henry Moses, his grandfather .Like many Black families, the Moses family moved north from the South during the Great Migration.
Moses didn’t spend much time in the Deep South until he went on a recruiting trip in 1960 to “see the movement for myself”.
Moses said “I was taught about the denial of the right to vote behind the Iron Curtain in Europe,” “I never knew that there was denial of the right to vote behind a Cotton Curtain here in the United States.”
In 1963, he and two other activists James Travis and Randolph Blackwell were driving in Greenwood, Mississippi, when someone opened fire on them and the 20-year-old Travis.
Moses said “We all were within inches of being killed,”A reoccurring theme in Moses’ life and work was the need to listen and work with the local populations where activists were trying to effect change. The National Visionary Leadership Project, he talked about the need for civil rights workers to earn the trust of the local population in Mississippi. Civil rights movement, Moses soon began taking part in demonstrations against the Vietnam War then cut off .