One of the most influential leaders in the civil rights movement,
Robert Parris Moses was essential in making Mississippi a central
battleground state in the fight for voting rights. As a leader of
the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Moses
presented himself as a mere facilitator of grassroots activism
rather than a charismatic figure like Martin Luther King Jr. His
self-effacing demeanor and his success, especially in steering the
events that led to the volatile 1964 Freedom Summer and the
formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party,
paradoxically gave him a reputation of nearly heroic proportions.
Examining the dilemmas of a leader who worked to cultivate local
leadership, historian Laura Visser-Maessen explores the
intellectual underpinnings of Moses's strategy, its achievements,
and its struggles.
This new biography recasts Moses as an effective, hands-on
organizer, safeguarding his ideals while leading from behind the
scenes. By returning Moses to his rightful place among the foremost
leaders of the movement, Visser-Maessen testifies to Moses's
revolutionary approach to grassroots leadership and the power of
the individual in generating social change.