Bob Moses was my 8th grade algebra teacher, which is why I can do math in base 8 or base 12.

When he died yesterday, at 86, major newspapers took note.

It was only from reading the Chicago Tribune that I learned he had been a Rhodes Scholar (not that it would have meant much to an 8th grader).*

. . . only from reading the Washington Post that I learned his dad was a janitor; that he had gotten a master’s degree in philosophy from Harvard the year before he entered our classroom; that the writings of Albert Camus had been his guide; that the man acquitted by an all-white jury of assaulting him on the steps of the Liberty, Mississippi courthouse was the sheriff’s cousin.

. . . only from reading the New York Times that I learned that, soon after he spoke out against the Vietnam War, he received a draft notice — five years past the age limit for the draft.

He taught us Boolean algebra, which is why I know what a Venn diagram is.  And would later use his MacArthur genius award money to found The Algebra Project.

“In my lifetime I have known no greater voice for justice,” former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence told the Herald.


Taylor Branch, one of the nation’s leading civil rights historians, told NPR in 2013 that despite his lower national profile, Moses’ success in pushing voting registration to the forefront of the civil rights movement made him almost as influential as Martin Luther King.


R.I.P.

*And only from a couple of you did I realize the Tribune, via the Associated Press, had it wrong.  He was many things, but not a Rhodes Scholar.

 

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