Civil Rights Activist Robert P. Moses To Give Keynote Address in Year of Voting Rights at Allegheny College

March 18, 2015 — Robert P. Moses, a legendary civil rights activist and a MacArthur Award-winning educator, will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 30 in Ford Chapel at Allegheny College. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Moses’ talk is a keynote presentation in the college’s Year of Voting Rights and Democratic Participation, which celebrates the 50th anniversary in 2015 of the Voting Rights Act and explores the state of civil rights, broadly defined, in the world today. The Year of Voting Rights and Democratic Participation is the academic centerpiece of the college’s bicentennial celebration.

Robert P. Moses is the president and founder of the Algebra Project, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the achievement in mathematics of historically underrepresented students and communities.

During the early 1960s, Moses worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. One of the first civil rights activists to work in Mississippi, he helped to register sharecroppers to vote. He became a leader not only in the grassroots work of voter registration but also in the strategy of defining voter registration as a centerpiece of working toward civil rights. He was also a leader in Freedom Summer, which brought to the South white students from Northern colleges to help with the work of civil rights.

The recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” from 1982 to 1987, Moses used his fellowship to develop the concept for the Algebra Project, an innovative continuation of his work in civil rights. The project promotes mathematics literacy as a tool that is critically important to educational access and citizenship for inner city and rural poor middle and high school students.

“The political process has been opened — there are no formal barriers to voting, for example — but economic access, taking advantage of new technologies and economic opportunity, demands as much effort as political struggle required in the 1960’s,” Moses writes in his memoir “Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project.”

“In today’s world,” Moses writes, “economic access and full citizenship depend crucially on math and science literacy. I believe that solving the problem requires exactly the kind of community organizing that changed the South in the 1960’s.”

Together with Algebra Project board member Danny Glover, Moses and others launched a national discussion calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution for quality public school education as a civil right.

Year of Voting Rights programs at Allegheny College also include a two-day national undergraduate conference on April 10 and 11 that will bring students together with five nationally recognized scholars and activists: John Aldrich, Anne Boxberger-Flaherty, Joy James, Gabriel Sanchez and Carol Geary Schneider. Presentations by the keynote speakers are open to the public. More information on Year of Voting Rights and Democratic Participation events at Allegheny College can be found at

Photo credit: Michael Lisnet, Math for America