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.