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Bob Moses, Crusader for Civil Rights and Math Education, Dies at 86

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Already active in the local civil rights movement, he left for Mississippi after seeing scenes in the news of Black people picketing and sitting at lunch counters across the South. The images “hit me powerfully, in the soul as well as the brain,” he recalled in “Radical Equations.”

His natural confidence and calm demeanor drew people to him, and he soon became something of a civil rights celebrity. He was a hero of many books on the movement, and an inspiration for the 2000 movie “Freedom Song,” starring Danny Glover.

Eventually the fame got to be too much — not only because it added to the stress of an already overwhelming task, but also because he thought it was dangerous for the movement. He resigned from the Council of Federated Organizations in December 1964 and from S.N.C.C. two months later. He was, he said, “too strong, too central, so that people who did not need to, began to lean on me, to use me as a crutch.”

Mr. Moses grew active in the movement against the Vietnam War, and in April 1965 he spoke at his first antiwar protest, in Washington, D.C. “The prosecutors of the war,” he said, were “the same people who refused to protect civil rights in the South” — a charge that drew criticism from moderates in the civil rights movement and from white liberals, who worried about alienating President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Not long afterward, he received a notice that his draft number had been called. Because he was five years past the age limit for the draft, he suspected it was the work of government agents.

Mr. Moses and his wife, Janet, moved to Tanzania, where they lived in the 1970s and where three of their four children were born. After eight years teaching in Africa, Mr. Moses returned to Cambridge, Mass., to continue working toward a Ph.D. in the philosophy of mathematics at Harvard.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Moses is survived by another daughter, Malaika; his sons Omowale and Tabasuri; and seven grandchildren.

Read More: Bob Moses, Crusader for Civil Rights and Math Education, Dies at 86

2021-07-25 23:17:00

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