Updated Jul 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Civil rights activist Robert Moses dies at 86

Robert Moses

Robert Parris Moses in 1964. Photo: Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Gety Images

Civil rights activist Robert Parris Moses, 86, who endured violence and jail time for leading Black voter registration drives in the 1960s, died Sunday at his home in Hollywood, Florida. No cause of death was given.

State of play: During the civil rights movement Moses worked to register thousands of Black voters in the South and helped train fledging activists and organizers, per the New York Times.

  • Moses was a "principal organizer" of the 1964 Freedom Summer project that brought northern college students down to the American South to help register Black Mississippians to vote, reports the Clarion Ledger.
  • Moses also worked as the Mississippi field director of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and also helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, per ABC News.
  • "Arrested and jailed many times, Mr. Moses developed a reputation for extraordinary calm in the face of horrific violence," notes the Times.
  • In 1982 he founded the Algebra Project, which helped "poor students succeed in math," according to ABC News. Moses referred to it as his “second chapter in civil rights work.”

What they're saying: Former President Obama paid tribute to his "hero" in a tweet. "His quiet confidence helped shape the civil rights movement, and he inspired generations of young people looking to make a difference," Obama said.

  • Historian Taylor Branch noted in a 1993 interview with the New York Times that "in Mississippi, Bob Moses was the equivalent of Martin Luther King.
  • "We owe so much to Mr. Moses, who never wanted accolades or recognition. He simply wanted what was right," Thomas Hudson, president of Jackson State University, tweeted Sunday.
  • "His transition to that higher level only inspires us all to love, struggle and live with and for our people as he did, as we continue to work to realize Bob’s vision of “raising the floor of mathematics literacy” for all young people in the United States of America," the Algebra Project said in a statement Sunday night.
  • NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted, "Bob Moses bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice. He was a strategist at the core of the voting rights movement and beyond. He was a giant. May his light continue to guide us as we face another wave of Jim Crow laws."

The bottom line: Moses is survived by his wife, Janet, his four children and seven grandchildren, per the Times.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with Obama's comment.

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