Robert "Bob" Parris Moses
(1935–2021)

Statement From the SNCC Legacy Project

Algebra Project, Inc. Statement

Statement President Joe Biden
on the Passing of Civil Rights Leader, Bob Moses

Statement by Vice President Harris
on the Passing of Civil Rights Leader Bob Moses


Bob Moses speaking to the SNCC 50th Reunion, 2010

 

As remembered by Derrick Johnson (President NAACP)
July 25, 2021

Bob Moses was a giant, a strategist at the core of the civil rights movement.

Through his life's work, he bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice, making our world a better place.

He fought for our right to vote, our most sacred right. He knew that justice, freedom and democracy were not a state, but an ongoing struggle.

So may his light continue to guide us as we face another wave of Jim Crow laws. His example is more important now than ever.

Rest in Power, Bob

 

As remembered by Frank Smith
July 25, 2021

Bob Moses came to Morehouse on his way from McComb to New York and convinced me to go to put school on hold and join him In Mississippi. On his way back I journeyed with him to Mississippi, a decision that would change the trajectory of my life forever. Like many in SNCC we owe Bob a personal debt of gratitude for his insight, courage and dedication. He earned his place with the Better Angels.

May the peace of God keep us as we journey on.

 

As remembered by Karen Spellman
July 25, 2021

Your Husband and Father ~ Our Warrior Prophet

Dear Janet, Maisha and Omo,

Our sorrow runs so deep at the loss of our beloved brother Bob.
His quiet strength, deep wisdom and creative genius will live on in the work of those who believe in Freedom.
His words will forever inspire us.
His deeds will be the stories of generations of educators and activists to come!
And his ideals will be carried on and surely stand the test of time!
Long Live Bob Moses!
Long Live Bob Moses!
May He Forever Rest In Peace!

Karen, A.B. and Family

 

As remembered by Bruce Hartford
July 25, 2021

In my mind's eye, the words Bob wrote with a smuggled pen from the Pike Co. Jail to describe Chuck McDew stand now for him as well, for he too was one who, "Dares to stand in a strong sun and cast a sharp shadow."

All of us in the Freedom Movement — even those of us serving in rival organizations — were shaped and empowered by his thoughtful wisdom. And by his vision and example of a "We rather Me style of leadership and organizing.

Whether they know of him or not, organizers today who center their work on empowering the people they serve rather than aggrandizing themselves act in remembrance of Bob Moses.

Bob Moses ¡Presente!

 

As remembered by Charlie Cobb
July 25, 2021

The year was 1962; I was 19-years-old and on the way to a workshop/conference for student activists in Houston, Texas, when the greyhound bus taking me there stopped in Jackson Mississippi and I got off and made my way to the headquarters of the student activists who had organized a protest movement in the city. There, student activists immediately challenged me. "You're going to Texas for a conference and workshops on civil rights when you're standing right here in Mississippi. What's the point of that?" Among these students were Lawrence Guyot, Dorie Ladner, Colia Liddell, and Jessie Harris. It was a challenge and I got the message: You can go somewhere and chatter about civil rights but we're doing real stuff here. So I was left with the question: What should I do?

I decided to stay over in Jackson and learn more about what they were doing. They offered accomodations at the "freedom house" they maintained on Rose Street near Jackson State College (now university). That freedom house was where I first met Bob Moses. He was listening as I sought in conversation to learn about the work unfolding in Mississippi. I knew nothing about it. All that Mississippi represented to me was it was the place where Emmitt Till was killed; maybe the worst piece of the universe for a black person. Bob, in that soft straightforward manner I would later learn he could use so effectively and persuasively said: "We're going up into the Delta tomorrow. Why don't you come up with us?" And so I did and my life began to radically change.

Details of the interactions between Bob and myself over the years would require more space than can be permitted here and as many of you know I'm a big believer in short statements. Suffice to say Bob will be missed although he remains in our hearts and minds as do the lessons he taught and ideas he cultivated through careful thought and determined actions.

 

As remembered by Ron Carver
July 25, 2021

What a fine tribute in the New York Times.

So very sad. He was able to always find ways to continue to work for justice. I suspect he is not stopping even now. Extra sad that the last SNCC reunion was upended by the pandemic. How many more will we lose before the next...

I wish someone would write about the way he conducted himself in south-wide staff meetings in the midst of so much posturing and grandstanding. And his advocacy of democratising the organization by insisting that the national office better share information with the field staff. A key lesson about organizational operations.

May he rest in peace after mentoring so many to carry on...

In peace,

 

As remembered by former President Barack Obama (via Twitter)
July 25, 2021

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.

 

As remembered by Bob Zellner
July 25, 2021

My head was full of Bob Moses from the time I joined SNCC. From the beginning there was debate and some tension between two factions that were beginning to develop. Moses was the name most associated with the voter registration side.

In my memoir, I put it this way:

"In the early days, the philosophy of SNCC was slowly being hamered out, and the heated and strong feeling on both sidesk — direct action vs. voter registration — was becoming quite evident. Some wondered if the organization would split into two different groups with some people doing what Bob Moses was doing alreadyk — organizing around voter registration in Mississippi. He had made so many good contacts with older activists there, like E.W. Steptoe, Amzie Moore, and Medgar Evers, and they were hungry for help. People were being threatened and killed for attempting to register."

I arrived in Atlanta to volunteer for the summer when nobody from the organization seemed to be in town. Chuck McDew was the only person in the SNCC office which I had managed to find on sweet Auburn Avenue. He said he had to leave to catch a bus, so every thing was said and done fast.

"Here's the briefcase," and he shoved it toward me. I had assumed that it was his briefcase, but he slid it over to my side of the desk and said, "Here's the briefcase, take good care of it. Everything's in there."

"What's in there?"

"Don't worry about it. Just keep it, and when somebody comes, they'll know who to give it to. Keep it with you at all times. Don't leave it here. If you need anything else, Wyatt Tee Walker with SCLC is across the street. Moses has a desk over there."

"BobMoses? Is he there?"

"No, he's in Mississippi."

"When is he coming back?"

"I don't know, but if you need anything just go over there and talk to Wyatt, and he'll take care of it for you."

In SNCC we had two great leaders with their eyes on history. Our Executive Director James Forman was constantly saying to us, "Write it down, make a record." He wanted us to be aware of the necessity of telling our own story. Around the time the movie MISSISSIPPI BURNING came out, Bob Moses said in Jackson, Mississippi, at the thirtieth anniversary of SNCC — that we needed to start writing our own stories, because history and historians will either not tell about it or will get it wrong.

Bob Moses was incensed that the story line of the film Mississippi Burning made two white savior FBI agents the heroes of the summer of 1964. The grassroots movement community [African American activists and their white northern Jewish allies] served only as background for the buddy movie and their homophobic, racist boss — J. Edgar Hoover. This was the exact opposite of the true story, turning history on its head.

Bob Moses, like Ms. Rosa Parks, was a person of such calm and firm demeanor that everyone listened when he spoke in his quiet voice. When Moses suggested that you should do something, most of us young SNCCers would get right to it. This is one of the main reasons that my memoir, THE WRONG SIDE OF MURDER CREEK, ever got written and published. Connie Curry and Julian Bond, also listening to Forman and Moses, made sure the book got done. Then, dreams sometimes do come true, along comes Barry Alexander Brown and Spike Lee, who made sure a good movie was done on the story which could reach thousands of young women and men around the world.

 

As remembered by Naomi Nelson
July 26, 2021

I was heartbroken to hear the news of Bob Moses' passing last night. May his deep belief in and respect for the people and his lifelong commitment to teaching mathematics in the name of justice continue to inspire new generations of activists. Thank you, Karlyn and John, for updating Bob's page in the SDG and for putting out posts through the FRC and SDG sites. I send love and condolences to those he loved and to those who worked beside him.

 

As remembered by Leslie-Burl McLemore
July 26, 2021

Dear Moses Family,

I had the great pleasure of meeting Bob, Medgar, Aaron, Fannie Lou, S.T. Nero and Amize within a span of one year. Meeting them changed my life. I am indebted to Bob for sending me on my current journey. He helped to provide me with the frame of reference that changed my life. Robert Parris Moses was the most thoughtful person that I had the opportunity to encounter in my life time. Long live the memory and good work of my Heroe!

 

As remembered by Daphne Muse
July 26, 2021

As I read all the accolades now showered upon Bob, I wonder why these same people were not in the trenches with him. I know this is a somewhat rhetorical question. Some are the same people whose refrain was "activists were asking for too much too fast." I just wish the energy and praise could have been used to create allyship and support when Bob was alive. It's easy to pay homage to someone when they die. Standing with them in struggle is where the courage is forged and real progress made.

Go well.

 

As remembered by Timothy Tyson
July 26, 2021

I have been thinking about Bob Moses into the late hours last night and all day today. I have admired him for 44 years now, and relished learning about his clarity of vision, calm and courage for the last thirty or so. And since we began our work I have felt it a deep privilege to be in his presence from time to time. I was not ready for this, and I know this much be far harder for those of you who were his friends and comrades lo these many years. I hope his memory will be a comfort to you and a light for the broken world.

With every good wish,

 

As remembered by Miriam Cohen Glickman
July 26, 2021

One of the things that we civil rights workers revered Bob for was that he told us the truth, even when it was hard to hear. We had our own myths about why things were happening and what to expect. Bob would cut through that with what always turned out to be the reality.

The example I still recall was about the Vietnam War. Bob cautioned that our government was not about to let the communists win. So it wasn't going to be easy to end it. We protested against the war and went to jail with Bob in Washington D.C. in Aug. 1965. As Bob had predicted we fought against that war for 10 long years more.

 

As remembered by The Andrew Goodman Foundation
July 26, 2021

With the heaviest of hearts, we mourn the death of Bob Moses, a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, a dear friend, and an esteemed member of The Andrew Goodman Foundation's (AGF) Advisory Board. The Andrew Goodman Foundation exists to live the legacy of Andrew "Andy" Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights workers who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan for their heroic participation in 1964's Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, of which Mr. Moses was the architect.

Mr. Moses served as a Field Secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and as a member of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). Known for courageously registering thousands of Black Americans to vote, community organizing, and foregrounding local leadership, Mr. Moses recruited and trained many of Freedom Summer's volunteers. In fact, Andrew Goodman received training from Mr. Moses in Oxford, Ohio, on June 19, 1964, just days before his tragic murder in Mississippi.

Robert Masters, Chair of AGF's Board of Directors, reflected: "I know that both Andy and I, as well as hundreds of other college students, were moved by Bob Moses to go to Mississippi to fight for the right to vote and to stand up for equality in our country. During our week of training in Ohio, before heading South, he was a constant presence. His quiet dignity, thoughtful words, and powerful story kept us together, calmed our fears, and made it possible to go on. Like late Congressman John Lewis, Bob Moses was a one-in-a-million person, both an intellectual and a spiritual leader."

Before joining the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Moses had been a math teacher at the Horace Mann School in the Bronx. In 1982, he received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and subsequently started the Algebra Project, which uses mathematics as an organizing tool for Quality Education as a Constitutional Right (QECR) for all students. Mr. Moses saw education, and particularly math literacy, as directly related to the fight for civil rights.

We are grateful to Mr. Moses for his training and leadership, which played a pivotal role in changing the course of history and expanding civil rights for all Americans. We dedicate ourselves to continuing his legacy and offer our sincere condolences to the Moses family.

In solidarity,

 

As remembered by Bill Chafe
July 26, 2021

There is no single individual who has meant more to the movement and to our common humanity than Bob. Way back in the 70s, when we started the oral history program, Bob and Ella Baker and Vincent Harding helped embrace and legitimize our efforts. Every individual life matters, but Bob's made such a difference for all of us.

 

As remembered by Bunmi Samuel
July 27, 2021

I want to share my deepest condolences to everyone for the passing of Mr. Moses. A piece of personal history, I attended Uhuru Sasa Freedom School as a child in Brooklyn and CSDIG Liberation/Freedom School in Harlem, New York. I then met Mr. Moses 16 years ago with the Algebra Project which influenced the development of the math curriculum (previously only literacy) in 2005 at Philadelphia Freedom Schools which I operated for some time. PFS has graduated over 105,000 youth leaders in Philly from 1999-2014.

This is emphatically attributed to Mr. Moses, Mr. Cobb, and all SNCC leaders who organized and called for Freedom Schools in the heart of the Freedom Movement. I and my young people are indelibly grateful to you all. They have been calling me all morning asking about Mr. Moses. They, who at that time were 13 years old are now adults with families. They are the fruit of your labor.

 

As remembered by Margaret Burnham
July 27, 2021

Remembering Bob Moses, 19352—2021, Nation magazine.

 

As remembered by Mary Ellickson
July 27, 2021

I was so sad to hear of the passing of Bob Moses. I was one of the COFO participants in Freedom Summer in Moss Point, Mississippi. My group was the second to be trained at the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio in June 1964 before we took off for Mississippi. Bob was the lead speaker, as I recall. His job was to educate all of us young, naive, enthusiastic students about the history of the struggle and what it meant to be a black person in Mississippi. He was soft-spoken, and there were many of us in the auditorium, but you could have heard a pin drop when he spoke. I thought he was a saint.

My condolences to everyone who had the privilege of knowing him.

 

As remembered by Worth Long and Posy Lombard
July 27, 2021

Red Sky Black Fire


Poem by Worth Long, Image by Posy Lombard

 

As remembered by Beatrice Moulton
July 27, 2021

On July 1, 1961, after I graduated from Pomona College and spent a few weeks at home, I left Salt Lake City and boarded a Greyhound bus for the long trip to Monteagle, Tennessee. One of my two best friends in college, Candie Carawan, had participated in the sit-ins and met her folksinger husband Guy as an exchange student at Fisk University in Nashville the preceding year. In 1961 she was living with Guy at the Highlander Folk School, and knew I would be welcomed to work there as a volunteer. Highlander was an early and active participant in the civil rights movement, hosting many important meetings. In early October, the Supreme Court denied cert on Highlander's appeal from a state court ruling that not only shut the school down but also confiscated its 200 acres of land, buildings and equipment. I was one of only five staff members who moved with it to Knoxville the very next day to continue the its work under a new charter. As the Highlander Research and Education Center in Knoxville we both lived and worked in a dilapidated mansion overlooking the Tennessee River.

Sometime in the winter of 1961-62 Bob Moses visited to meet with Highlanders's director, Myles Horton, about his plan to start doing voter education and registration in Mississippi. They talked at length about possible sources of funding as well as strategies, tactics, and the training Highlander could provide for the endeavor. When they emerged from his office in the early evening, Myles introduced me to Bob and told him I would help him write a proposal to submit to the Field Foundation, which they had decided was the most likely source of funding. I did that, we worked into the night, and I like to think I helped secure that funding and make the project happen.

I also helped to plan, locate housing, and make other arrangements for the weeklong residential training we provided in early May to more than a dozen SNCC members, most of whom were going to Mississippi. I sat in on the training, and I wasn't the only white person or female among the trainees. Bob Zellner and another white guy whose name I've forgotten were part of the Mississippi contingent, as were Dorie Ladner and another young black woman. Charles Jones, Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon (all from the Albany movement, where Cordell met and married Bernice Johnson) were there, as were Bob Moses, Hollis Watkins, Willie Peacock, Reggie Robinson and a few others whose names I no longer recall but recognize whenever I hear them.

In early June of 1962 I left for Peace Corps training, and it wasn't until 1967, during my first law school summer, that I finally went to Mississippi myself. I worked in Jackson for Marian Wright at the "Inc. Fund"" (she was dating Kennedy aide Peter Edelman at the time). As the only law student with a car, I drove all over the state interviewing witnesses, documenting unequal facilities and hand delivering and transporting important files and messages. Bob was long gone at that point, but the lasting effects of his work and influence were everywhere.

 

As remembered by Gavin Guerra
July 28, 2021

Bob Moses Tribute 15 minute video.

 

As remembered by Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely
July 30, 2021

Dear friends...

My heart is heavy...but Bob so lighted our way and enlightened our burdens with his style and particular genius... I offer this poem in tribute.

Bob Moses... One of Us

Bob grew up in a Black housing development, the Harlem River Houses, not far from the one where I lived, the Riverton Housing Development. Both were in Harlem. Sometimes we bumped into each other at The Countee Cullen/Schomburg Library on 135th street.... not far for either of us in those days.

We knew each other through our families... our community ... despite the difference in our ages; he was 7 years my senior... he was always a light for us...he went to college! He was serious... was quiet... was kind... had a smile that comforted.

I followed his lead and joined SNCC... he approved, and so we served. He made the movement his life with his family. We lost immediate touch over the years but remained connected as all SNCC people do.

And, Janet Jemmott Moses, from the Bronx... was also a contemporary and a colleague... to her and their children my heart goes out with love and deep appreciation.

Just a sister in the struggle,

 

As remembered by Amelie Ratliff
August 4, 2021

Tribute to Bob Moses


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