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Rest in Power, Bob Moses

Bob Moses. Photo credit: Miller Center
Bob Moses. Photo credit: Miller Center

The Civil Rights Movement has lost another great one. Radical educator, global-minded activist, MacArthur genius fellow. On July 25 at age 86, Bob Moses joined the ancestors. While we’re heartbroken about his passing, we remain honored to have published Radical Equations, which he wrote with Charles E. Cobb to tell his story of founding the Algebra Project. He provided a model for anyone looking for a community-based solution to the problems of our disadvantaged schools and improving education for poor children of color.

He meant so much to us at Beacon and our authors. Here’s what they have to say about him.

It was a great privilege for Beacon Press to work with the legendary civil rights activist Bob Moses and his colleague and coauthor Charles E. Cobb on his revolutionary book, Radical Equations. Bob did something completely fresh, building on his experience organizing in Mississippi to create a model for using math literacy as a new frontier in civil rights. He didn’t just teach math; he used it to build bridges and community. He was audacious even as he was entirely modest and self-effacing. His voice was ever so soft, but his witness and his work were both huge and very audible. I feel lucky to have known him and very proud to see his legacy continue to grow.
—Helene Atwan, director

In every classroom or meeting space, Bob Moses listened better than anyone. The speaker might be five years old, or a sharecropper studying for the voter’s literacy test in Mississippi, or an Algebra Project student in Chicago, or the student’s grandmother, or the Attorney General of the United States. Bob wanted their words to become a part of his life, to figure in the enormous tapestry of experience that he lived in and that he built all around him. He listened to you and then he invited you to do something more than just speak: to consider something; to look from a different angle; to try to apply what you said; to go somewhere; to meet someone; to tell someone else; to make something happen. He put tens of thousands of us in motion with this simple technique: listen, and then invite someone to move as if they meant what they said. Teacher and organizer. Listener, questioner, doer.
—Jay Gillen, The Power in the Room: Radical Education Through Youth Organizing and Employment 

A reminiscence about the late Bob Moses, one of the most courageous and creative activists of our time. I organized a panel for the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, which was held at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis on April 4, 2003, the thirty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our topic was “Remembering SNCC and SDS.” Two of the speakers were Bob Moses and Staughton Lynd, who had worked together in SNCC. The meeting included historians, but it was primarily a community event. The large room, packed to overflowing, included reporters and cameramen from local news stations. Jesse Jackson, who had been with Dr. King when he died, showed up and asked to join the panel. The moment Bob Moses walked into the room, unintroduced, the audience rose in a thunderous standing ovation. Staughton told a story about Bob, who in 1964 was speaking to a small gathering in front the charred remains of a Black church that had recently been burned down in Philadelphia, Mississippi. In that moment, Bob chose to speak about a bill that had just been passed by the US Congress called the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which signaled a vast expansion of US involvement in the Vietnam war. Bob said everyone needed to pay close attention because the war overseas and the Civil Rights movement at home would be closely linked. His vision of struggle was international—and prescient.
—Marcus Rediker, The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist

Some of our authors took to Twitter to share their outpouring of love for him.

Rest in power, Bob Moses.