Robert 'Bob' Parris Moses, the architect of Mississippi's Freedom Summer and a famed leader of the civil rights movement, died Sunday at 86, according to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project.
Born in New York City's Harlem in 1935, Moses was an educator in the city before moving to Mississippi in the early 60s, becoming field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC.
Moses became a principal organizer of the Freedom Summer project in 1964 when hundred of northern college students joined with local Black Mississippians to register African American voters and promote civil rights throughout the state.
"Staff are saddened to hear of the death of Bob Moses, an American icon who left a tremendous legacy in Mississippi,” Mississippi Department of Archives and History Director Katie Blount said.
The Freedom Summer is notoriously linked to the Mississippi Burning murders of three civil rights activists who were working to register voters in Neshoba County. Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and local police in an attempt to scare others like them away.
A soft-spoken leader, Moses led from the bottom-up, and encouraged activists in the state to listen to other people and become part of the communities they wanted to help.
Moses said Black Mississippians had spent their lives having wealthier, more-educated people tell them what to do and he didn't want civil rights activists to do the same, according to the Center for Study of Southern Culture.
"This is Mississippi, the middle of the iceberg," Moses wrote in a 1961 letter from jail. "This is a tremor from the middle of the iceberg from a stone the builders rejected."
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An advocate for non-violent protest, Moses focused heavily on helping to organize African American voters. He is one of the chief founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a group of Democratic candidates that challenged the Mississippi's all-white delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
The impact of Moses' work was felt the very next year, when then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965.
Moses died on what would have been Emmett Till's 80th birthday. Pamela D.C. Junior, director of The Two Mississippi Museums, said Moses is of the Till generation, a group of activists in the 50s and 60s who saw what happened to Till and made a conscious decision to fight for what is morally right.
Junior called for young people to carry on in the tradition of Moses and others, and said she is frustrated with how much change still needs to happen in Mississippi.
"We're still at the bottom, and we shouldn't be," Junior said. "Bob Moses didn't come to Mississippi for his own name."
A section of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum features Moses heavily, including his quote about Mississippi being the "middle of the iceberg."
Later in his life, Moses founded the Algebra Project, which uses mathematics as organizing tool for quality education for middle and high school students who previously performed in the lowest quartile on standardized exams, according to its website.
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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Civil rights icon and educator Robert Moses dies at 86