First modification: 07/26/2021 – 21:17
Activist Robert Parris Moses, who fought for minority rights in the United States, died on July 25, at the age of 86. A prominent figure in the fight for the right of Afro-descendants to vote, a public school teacher and a doctorate in philosophy, he has always had the mission of offering ideas and opportunities to vulnerable populations.
Many know him for his prominent role in the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign, where he registered thousands of African Americans at the polls to exercise their right to vote.
‘Bob’, as he was called, was at this time the local co-chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the leading African-American civil rights organizations of the 1960s. Beaten and imprisoned for his decisive role during these In turbulent years, ‘Bob’s’ legacy stretches across the country for his fight for the civil rights of America’s minorities.
Former President Barack Obama mourned the death of Moses, whom he said was one of his heroes. “His quiet confidence helped forge the civil rights movement, inspired generations of young people wanting to make a difference …” the former president wrote on Twitter.
Bob Moses was a hero of mine. His quiet confidence helped shape the civil rights movement, and he inspired generations of young people looking to make a difference. Michelle and I send our prayers to Janet and the rest of the Moses family.
– Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 26, 2021
Robert Moses was born on January 23, 1935, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, two months before a series of race riots that left three people dead and about sixty wounded.
Grandson of Baptist preacher William Henry Moses, little ‘Bob’ grew up in an environment of turmoil for the integration of African Americans, following in the words of African nationalist preacher Marcus Garvey, a leader of the African cause in the early twentieth century.
At that time, Moses’ family decided to go on a journey and do like many during the African-American ‘Great Migration’, that is, flee the south of the country to settle in the north, much more friendly with Afro-descendants. Settled in Harlem, the family sold milk in an African-American cooperative, according to the biography of Robert Moses by Laura Visser-Maessen: ‘A life in civil rights and leadership at the grassroots’.
After earning his Bachelor of Arts in 1956 from Hamilton College, young Robert Moses graduated two years later with a Master of Philosophy from Harvard. Then he would begin teaching mathematics at Horace Mann School, in the Bronx of New York, the most popular and poorest neighborhood in the city at that time.
First steps in the fight for civil rights
In 1960, Bob’s ambitions began to come true. He returned to the south of the country, from which his family fled, and began his new position as SNCC field secretary. He would end up directing it four years later.
Just a year after starting his job as secretary, Robert decided to take concrete action for his community: he went to two cities on the Mississippi to promote the right to vote for African Americans and help them register on the electoral rolls. This year, for his activism, he was attacked and jailed. His assailant was acquitted by an exclusively white jury. Five years later, only one African American was registered to vote, out of the 5,500 in the city of Amite at the time, one of two cities in the registration plan where Robert and his team campaigned.
A longtime voting rights activist, who centered the participation of Black voters in our democracy, and education advocate, who founded the Algebra Project, which enhances the math skills of students of color, Robert Moses was one of the grandfathers of the civil rights movement. pic.twitter.com/60L5KI7FVn
– Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) July 26, 2021
In February 63, Robert and two activists, James Travis and Randolph Blackwell, were shot on a Greenwood (Mississippi) street while in a car. James Travis was wounded with a bullet in the spine. “We came very close to being killed,” Travis told Student Voice, the Atlanta-based SNCC daily.
But Bob Moses was unmotivated and lived his hour of glory in the summer of 1964 and the famous Freedom Summer, a massive replica of his attempt three years before registering his community at the polls to vote. Aided by hundreds of students from the north of the country, who came to the Mississippi, the operation was a great success. But as if that wasn’t enough, the same year he was the principal founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a group of Democratic candidates enlisted to oppose the all-white male Mississippi delegation during the party’s national convention.
An escape into mathematics
Disillusioned with the war in Vietnam, Robert decided to cut his relationship with a large part of his acquaintances in the United States, including people from the SNCC tells us “The Guardian”, and also to avoid being deported as a mandatory volunteer, he went to Canada, then decided to go teach in Tanzania. He returned to Harvard a few years later just to do a Ph.D. in philosophy. From there he began to teach mathematics classes in a public school in the city of Cambridge, in the state of Massachusetts, and later in the city of Jackson, Mississippi.
It was there that, in 1982, Moses founded the Algebra project, one of his greatest legacies at the present time. A project funded by the MacArthur Foundation, which gives thirty Americans, reputed creative and intelligent, grants to develop the knowledge of mathematics to poor and disadvantaged populations.
“Giving hope to young people thanks to access to mathematics was for him an issue just as important as the right to vote,” Ben Moynihan of the Algebra project told ‘Le Monde’.
With Reuters and EFE