On Sunday, July 25, the news was announced that Robert “Bob” Parris Moses, at the age of 86, has joined the ancestors. He was not a household name for those people who only think of the civil rights movement in terms of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or perhaps Rosa Parks and John Lewis, however those of us who grew up either in the movement or directly affected by it know his name well.
Born in Harlem in 1935, Moses would, as a young adult, become a field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizing voter registration in the South, and was a co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party with Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. Later in his life, in 1982, Moses received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, and developed the Algebra Project, which prepares minority students for college level math.
Obituaries for Moses have been posted by major news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR, among others, and there will be other tributes in days to come. At a time when once again civil rights, and voting rights are under attack from the same white supremacists whose very existence fueled the movement during the ‘60s and ‘70s, Bob Moses is a powerful example for young activists today, who are following in his footsteps even though they may not know his name or his history. Sadly, his passing provides us with yet another opportunity to teach what needs to be learned, given that racist forces are making the attempt to prevent this history from being taught at all.
Tributes to Moses are mounting on social media, from former activists, the famous, and from family and friends.
Rather than repeat his bio, or the information in the numerous obituaries, I’d like to strongly suggest that you take the time to sit and listen to this interview with Moses, conducted for the “Julian Bond Oral History Project” in 2018. It will be two hours well spent, to get a sense of both the man, and the movement he played such a key role in.
An interview with Bob Moses for the Julian Bond Oral History Project, sponsored by the School of Public Affairs at American University. Conducted by Gregg Ivers, Professor of Government at American University and Project Director, in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 26th, 2018. [...]
Here, Mr. Moses discusses his upbringing and educational background, his decision to join the Southern freedom movement, his voter registration work in Mississippi, planning for Freedom Summer and his impressions of and relationship with Julian Bond.
You can find a full transcript of the interview here.
The power of Bob Moses is a power of example for all of us. Condolences to his family, and a heartfelt thank you to brother, and now ancestor, Bob Moses.