Mississippi Freedom Summer organizer Bob Moses dead at 86

Civil rights leader Bob Moses — known best for organizing voting rights campaigns in Mississippi — has died, his family said Sunday. He was 86 years old.

Moses, organizer of the Freedom Summer project and founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as well as the Algebra Project, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., his daughter Maisha Moses confirmed to The New York Times. She did not specify a cause.

Born on Jan. 23, 1935, in New York City, Moses studied philosophy and French at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. and earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Harvard in 1957.

He worked as a high school teacher in New York City before leaving for Mississippi in 1960 after he said images of Black people picketing and conducting sit-ins during the civil rights movement “hit me powerfully, in the soul as well as the brain.”

After arriving, Moses volunteered for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, focusing on voter registration drives throughout the state and was a director of the Council of Federated Organizations.

In 1964, he became the principal organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, which recruited college students to join with Black Mississippians to register Black voters and promote civil rights.

The campaign drew violent resistance as James E. Chaney, a Black activist working on the campaign and White activists Andrew Goodman and Michal H. Schwerner were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and local police weeks into the effort.

The same year, Moses was among the chief founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which challenged Mississippi’s all-White delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Moses and other members of the group held out for full recognition at the convention, while other civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. favored a compromise that gave members two seats alongside the delegation.

In 1991, Moses founded the Algebra Project, a program that uses mathematics as an organizing tool to provide quality education to middle and high school students who previously performed in the lowest quartile on standardized exams.