Civil Rights Legend Bob Moses Dies At 86

Photo: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Civil rights icon Bob Moses died Sunday (July 25) at the age of 86. NAACP President Derrick Johnson confirmed Moses’ death in a statement. 

The civil rights advocate was born in 1935 in New York City and is credited with being the mastermind of the monumental voter registration campaign of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, and many others. 

A native of Harlem, Moses began working with the civil rights movement in the late 1950s, traveling with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). 

Moses led campaigns against the Vietnam War, connecting the war to the fight for civil rights, though he faced criticism from some for his anti-war stance. To avoid the draft, Moses moved to Canada and eventually moved to Tanzania in the late 1960s where he became a math teacher. He returned to the United States in 1976 after President Jimmy Carter created the amnesty program.

Following his return, in 1982, Moses was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. With his fellowship, he created The Algebra Project, a nationwide college access program for Black students that centered on math literacy. 

“His transition to that higher level only inspired 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 State of America,” The Algebra Project said in a statement after news of Moses’ death. 

Though he was known to stay out of the spotlight, Moses was considered a hero to many including President Barack Obama who once shouted the civil rights legend out from the crowd. 

“When he got on the platform, he gave me a shout out,” Moses told CNN when he was 73. “He said, ‘there’s someone in the audience, and he’s a hero of mine.’” 

Moses also told the outlet that until Obama ran for president in 2008, he hadn’t voted in a presidential election for three decades. "I don't do politics, but I made sure to vote this time" Moses said at the time, "Obama is the first person I really felt moved to vote for."

“Bob Moses was a giant, a strategist at the core of the civil rights movement,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

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