Robert ‘Bob’ Parris Moses, the architect of Mississippi’s Freedom Summer and a famous leader of the civil rights movement, died Sunday at age 86, according to the legacy project of the non-violent student coordination committee.
Born in Harlem, New York in 1935, Moses was an educator in the city before moving to Mississippi in the early 1960s, becoming field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC.
Moses became one of the main organizers of the Freedom Summer Project in 1964, when hundreds of northern students joined with local black Mississippians to register African-American voters and promote civil rights statewide.
“Staff are saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Moses, an American icon who left a huge legacy in Mississippi,” said Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Freedom Summer is notoriously linked to the Mississippi Burning murders of three civil rights activists who worked to register voters in Neshoba County. Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and local police in an attempt to scare away others like them.
A soft-spoken leader, Moses led from the bottom up and encouraged state activists to listen to others and be part of the communities they wanted to help.
Moses said black Mississippians have spent their lives being told what to do by wealthier and more educated people and he didn’t want civil rights activists to do the same, according to the Center for Study of Southern Culture.
“This is Mississippi, in the middle of the iceberg,” Moses wrote in a 1961 jail letter. “It is a quake from the middle of the iceberg of a stone that the builders rejected.”
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An advocate of non-violent protests, Moses has focused heavily on helping organize African-American voters. He is one of the main founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a group of Democratic candidates who challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
The impact of Moses’ work was felt the following year, when then President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Moses died on what would have been Emmett Till’s 80th birthday. Pamela DC Junior, director of The Two Mississippi Museums, said Moses was from Generation Till, a group of activists from the 1950s and 1960s who saw what happened to Till and made the conscious decision to fight for it. which is morally right.
Junior called on young people to continue the tradition of Moses and others, and said she was frustrated with the number of changes yet to happen in Mississippi.
“We’re still at the bottom and we shouldn’t be,” said Junior. “Bob Moses did not come to Mississippi for his own name.”
A section of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum largely features Moses, including his quote that Mississippi is the “middle of the iceberg.”
Later in his life, Moses founded the Algebra Project, which uses math as an organizing tool for quality education for middle and high school students who previously fell in the bottom quartile on standardized exams, according to his website.
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