Robert Parris Moses was born on January 23, 1935, in Harlem, New York.
“The sits-in woke me up,” recalled Harlem, New York-native Robert “Bob” Moses, discussing how his involvement with southern struggle began. When he first arrived in Mississippi in the summer of 1960, there was no student movement in the state. Moses was sent by Ella Baker to find students from the Deep South to participate in a SNCC conference that October in Atlanta.
SNCC’s voter registration efforts began when Bob Moses met Cleveland, Mississippi NAACP president Amzie Moore, one of the people Miss Baker had put him in contact with. Moore decided to attend the October conference and placed the idea of voter registration on SNCC’s table.
. . . What SNCC workers learned while working in that small Southwest Mississippi city, and the surrounding rural counties, forever shaped SNCC’s organizing style. Moses nurtured the development of local grassroots leaders, and he recognized the untapped potential power and unheard voice of locals who spoke up at meetings and participated in voter registration efforts.
‘‘Leadership is there in the people,’’ he said. ‘‘You don’t have to worry about where your leaders are, how are we going to get some leaders. . . If you go out and work with your people, then the leadership will emerge.”
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Learn about Moses’ current work at the Algebra Project.
“Well, I don’t think that the Democratic Party to this day has confronted the issue of bringing into its ranks the kind of people that were represented by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. That is the real underclass of this country. The Democratic Party primarily has organized around the middle class. And we were challenging them not only on racial grounds but we were challenging them on the existence of a whole group of people who are the underclass of this country, white and black, who are not represented. And they weren’t prepared to hear that; I don’t know if they heard.” —Bob Moses, quote on Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait
Read bio of Robert Moses and order portrait as a poster from Americans Who Tell the Truth.
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