Bob Moses, Crusader for Civil Rights and Math Education, Dies at 86

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Robert Parris Moses was born on Jan. 23, 1935, in New York City, one of three children of Gregory H. Moses, a janitor, and Louise (Parris) Moses, a homemaker.

In an interview with Julian Bond, Mr. Moses credited his parents with fostering his love of learning, recalling that they would collect books for him every week from the local library in Harlem. His family participated in a cooperative program selling milk that was organized by Ms. Baker — an early connection that the two activists didn’t realize until they were working together in the South.

He was raised in the Harlem River Houses, a public housing complex, and attended Stuyvesant High School, a selective institution with a strong emphasis on math. He played basketball and majored in philosophy and French at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

He earned a master’s degree in philosophy in 1957 from Harvard University, and was working toward his doctorate when he was forced to leave because of the death of his mother and the hospitalization of his father, according to the King Institute.

With his denim bib overalls and strong moral leadership, Mr. Moses was a hero of many books on the civil rights movement, and an inspiration for the 2000 movie “Freedom Song,” starring Danny Glover.

Fleeing the Vietnam-era draft, Mr. Moses and his wife, Janet, moved to Tanzania, where they lived in the 1970s and where three of their four children were born. After eight years teaching in Africa, Mr. Moses returned to Cambridge, Mass., to continue working toward a Ph.D. in the philosophy of mathematics at Harvard.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Moses is survived by another daughter, Malaika; his sons Omowale and Tabasuri; and seven grandchildren.

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