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Robert Moses

Robert Moses

Robert Moses began working with civil rights activists in 1960, becoming field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As director of the SNCC's Mississippi Project in 1961, Moses traveled to Pike County and Amite County to try to register black voters. Despite comprising a majority in both counties, they had been shut out of the political process for years.

By 1964, Moses had become co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella organization for the major civil rights groups working in Mississippi. A major leader with SNCC, he was the main organizer of COFO's Freedom Summer project, which was intended to achieve widespread voter registration of blacks in Mississippi, and ultimately, end racial disfranchisement. They educated, organized, and came up with a simplified registration system to demonstrate African American desire to vote. Moses was one of the calm leaders who kept the group focused.

In 1982, Moses received a MacArthur Fellowship and used the award to create the Algebra Project, a foundation devoted to improving minority education in math. Moses, who taught math at Lanier High School in Jackson, Miss., used it as a laboratory school for developing methods and approaches for the Algebra Project, enlisting the support of parents and the community.

Since 1982, Moses expanded the Algebra Project from teaching math in one school to using this method for teaching math in more than 200 schools across the country by the late 1990s. The Algebra Project's unique approach to school reform develops models that are sustainable and focused on students by building coalitions of stakeholders within the local communities. The historically undeserved population is a big portion of these coalitions.