Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

BOND: Bob Moses, thanks for doing this interview. It's much appreciated.

MOSES: My pleasure.

BOND: This is a program called Explorations in Black Leadership and I have a set group of questions we've asked everyone of the 49 people who've proceeded you, so I want to begin with what did the Brown v. Board of Education mean to you at the time you heard about the court decision.

MOSES: Yes, in 1954, I was at Hamilton. And one of my thoughts was, well, I went to segregated schools and what's interesting when I said that to one of the professors in passing, he said, "oh, no, no, no, no, that's different." So, I grew up in Harlem. The elementary school, P.S. 90, was certainly all black and when it came time to go to junior high school, if you remember, right after World War II, they began this process of looking for talent and so New York City set up a system and took two or three kids from every 6th grade class in Harlem and the South Bronx and put us all together in P.S. 164 which was up on the hill there at the edge of Harlem and I think they did it so they could have— We had two white girls and one white boy in that class. So, the whole issue of school segregation - for me, the schools were segregated up north, too.

BOND: Did you think that an era of integration would follow the decision? What did you think the decision would mean to you personally?

MOSES: So I actually thought that the country would move ahead and you remember, there was a whole year and then the second Brown came out and the idea of all deliberate speed, but to be truthful, I was really in those years, '52 to '56, and then '56 to '58, I was just lost in this world of during college, during graduate school. I wasn't really up on what was going on, although I remember when Little Rock happened.

BOND: How did the Brown decision impact your life over the long term? Do you think it affected you in any way?

MOSES: Yes. I mean, what I think, it certainly has impacted — When we got down to Mississippi, I don't know if you remember when we were actually doing this literacy program trying to teach the sharecroppers. So, we started out in Greenville. I was trying to teach someone and I had some materials and we couldn't get the word "can," because they had a picture of a garbage can, so I thought about it and I went and contacted my former professor, John Blyth, who had developed the logic textbook that we used at Hamilton and had gone to work for the Diebold Company [Diebold Group, Inc.] and he was in charge of what they called their Program Learning which was sort of the technology at that time they were trying to develop, so I went to him with the problem and asked if he would be willing to help develop some materials for us. We sent him down to Burke Marshall and Burke sent him up to Currier at the Taconic Foundation and I'm walking on Tougaloo Campus one day and [A.D.] Beittle who was the president of Tougaloo says, "well, we just got $60,000 worth of Gulf Oil stock for your program." They actually funded - Currier actually funded this idea of doing a literacy program. We got [Casey] and other SNCC workers, they were housed at Tougaloo, Blyth took half of his position to develop these materials, half-time, and he came down, so actually during Freedom Summer, they were housed there at Tougaloo turning out these materials. The issue of education and literacy was right there embedded in the movement and here's how I think. I think we got Jim Crow out of public accommodations, access to the vote, and the national Democratic Party structure but we didn't get it out of education, so I think of it as the unfinished business. Judge [Claude] Clayton that we're talking about, when he said, well, why are you taking illiterates down to register to vote, so the idea, it really in thinking about that sharecropper illiteracy really is the idea that certain people have been assigned certain work and so they just get the education needed for the work that's been assigned. In New York, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity sued to get better education, particularly in New York City and they got a federal district judge who agreed with them, but then when [George] Pataki was the governor and he put together an appeal and the three judge— The first appeal, the three-judge panel said, no, and the reason is that the state constitution of New York says that we need to educate our young people so they can do two things: serve on juries and vote and they said an 8th grade education is sufficient for that and New York City is already giving every student the equivalent of that and so they don't need more money for that. There was one judge, [Alfred D.] Lerner, who said, look, there're a lot of low paying jobs, who's going to work these jobs, what kind of education do they need to work these jobs, so the 21st century version of sharecropper education is still out there.

BOND: Who are the people in your life who've been significant in developing your talents, in developing your life?

MOSES: I think I have to start with my mother and father. My father I think really helped me in the sense of having a sensibility about what he thought of as the common person and, of course, we were growing up within really working class Harlem. It was interesting: 1935 there was a race riot in Harlem and then the city decided that they needed to build housing and so with the feds, this was the first federally funded low rent housing project right across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium. There were 11,000 applicants for 550 places. Somehow, our family got into that. We were part of this growing up as really working class. When I met Ella [Baker] and she told me that she was involved in the co-op movement in Harlem, I said: "We were one of your workers because my mother and myself and my brother used to set up a little milk station in the hallway of one of the halls in the projects and every morning before the kids went to school, we sold them milk." Milk was 19 cents a quart and you had 20 quarts in a carton. If you sold two cartons worth, you got a penny for every quart you'd sell. That's how we got our work. My mother liked to read. She had graduated high school. She never went, neither Mom or Pop went to college, but she liked to read and in the projects, they had a little small like one-room library and the Schomburg, every Friday would open it up. They'd send somebody there and you could go in and select books and she always went religiously and so I would go with her all the time and pick out books so I got some of that from her.

BOND: What about your grandfather, William Henry Moses?

MOSES: It's interesting because I didn't know— I didn't understand and Pop really never made explicit his role, although he talked about how he traveled with him because my father was young enough so that when his father did the circuit through the south and Texas, he could travel with him free, so he spent a lot of time with him on the road but it was Frank Figures who was part of The Algebra Project in Jackson, Mississippi and was part of the National Baptist Convention that came to me and said, "your grandfather, William Henry Moses actually was the person who fought to keep the publishing part, the publishing house, of the National Baptist Convention in their control in the 1920s." He had looked it up in their archives.

BOND: What about William Henry Moses, Jr., your uncle?

MOSES: Uncle Bill? Uncle Bill, he was my father's favorite brother and really close friend and I still remember when, and it's right here in Virginia, he was teaching down at Hampton and the World's Fair was going to happen in 1939 in New York City and Uncle Bill had decided that he would enter and win the competition for the state of Virginia for its design.

BOND: He was an architect?

MOSES: He was an architect, for its pavilion, and so he went underground working and sent it out anonymous with his name but with a different address. When he won it and they put his name in the paper and apparently this was the first time the title "Mister" had gotten next to any Negro name in the paper there in Hampton and so they rescinded it.

BOND: They took it away from him?

MOSES: They took it away from him. [W.E.B.] Du Bois writes about it in The Crisis, so they took it away from him. I have a vivid memory. He and Pop, he came up to New York and they sat in my kitchen for three days—I'm a little kid—drinking and cooking, and trying to really get out of themselves the emotional impact of what had happened. I'm a little kid absorbing all of this. I'm just about five years old. As soon as the sit-ins happened, then I said I need to go see Uncle Bill.

BOND: That's where you saw people sitting in at Newport News?

MOSES: Yes, in Newport News.

BOND: What was the sensation you got from watching these people?

MOSES: What I remember is the seriousness of the march because we had to march from Hampton to Newport News and just the tone and the seriousness of the students. So that's the first time in my life that I'm really embedded in this kind of public display of really disciplined action and emotional tone of there's something really important that we're doing.

BOND: Did it make you think this was something you could do or you should do?

MOSES: Yes, right. Immediately when Wyatt came down and said they're opening up an office, it made me immediately say, well, I need to get involved in that office and then from there, I really felt I needed to go down the summer and-

BOND: Let me mention some names of people and see if you can very quickly tell me who they are and what they represented to you. Bayard Rustin?

MOSES: Bayard [Rustin] actually was the person who ran the office in Harlem and so I went to the organizing meeting for the office. Now, I had met Bayard before because when I decided that I was going to be a conscientious objector, I had a Quaker professor and he thought I needed to go talk to somebody and he sent me to Bayard. I thought he was the strangest person I'd ever met, this black guy with this English accent.

BOND: From Pennsylvania.

MOSES: Right. Bayard ran that office and it was Bayard that I asked about going down south to work.

BOND: Ella Baker?

MOSES: So he sent me to Ella [Baker]. Bayard sent me to Ella. Ella, you know, the thing with Ella was her interest in you as a person. She wasn't in the office when I arrived. Jane Stembridge was there and Dora [McDonald], I think.

BOND: Dora McDonald.

MOSES: Dora McDonald, yes, was [Martin Luther] King's secretary. I spent the time talking with Jane and licking envelopes to get out this fundraising appeal and then Ella came. She was out on the road and she sat me down and we had a long conversation. Ella was really the person that I think helped to clarify this issue of the difference between, for me, being someone who was— The thing that she said which is that when asked about leadership, she wasn't so much interested in people who wanted themselves to be leaders as in people who wanted to help develop leaders so this is a real big distinction between yourself getting out and being the leader and being someone who was looking at, well, how to develop more leaders and I think that was what Ella spent her life working on.

BOND: Amzie Moore?

MOSES: Ella [Baker] and Jane [Stembridge] sent me to Amzie [Moore]. Amzie was the person really who I think had the insight into Mississippi. You had to grow up in Mississippi to actually understand where the place was that you could really cut through and begin to unravel the society and I think Amzie felt like he, and I think it's true, he really understood both the black people and the white people in Mississippi. His experience in the Army was liberating for him because meeting—

BOND: He was in Burma, I think.

MOSES: Burma, yes, and he would talk about Tokyo Rose and what she'd be telling him, why are you fighting here, as he's driving through the hills, the mountains of Burma. Amzie was pivotal.

BOND: When did you meet David Dennis, that makes that chain of going from Ella to Jane to—

MOSES: I actually met Dave [Dennis]— You remember Dion Diamond? Dion had been arrested in connection with the Baton Rouge demonstrations and was going back to face his jail sentence, so [Charles] Chuck McDew came through. Actually, I was living at [E.W.] Steptoe's. Chuck and Reggie Robinson and Dion and we drove on down to Baton Rouge and that's where I met Dave, I think. I think that's the first time I met Dave because Dave was Louisiana based and this was the big thing that was happening in Baton Rouge at Southern at that time.

BOND: And he became part of The Algebra Project.

MOSES: Dave really got really excited and I think part of his excitement was due to his connection with [James T.] Jim McCain who was a big field secretary for the CORE in South Carolina and Jim McCain really was a part of the whole history in South Carolina of working the politics of the idea of the movement and he had been talking to Dave, so Dave really, his ears perked up about the voter registration as opposed to what the students were doing at Southern in terms of the direct action marching demand. At that time, [Thomas] Tom Gaither was heading up the CORE office which was primarily involved in shepherding the Freedom Riders in and out of CORE. But when Tom left that job, there was an opening and Dave grabbed that to come in and, of course, Dave then focused on not just that but on the actual work that we were doing with voter registration.

BOND: And then years later Dave became involved in The Algebra Project.

MOSES: Yes. When I came back and we sat up The Algebra Project. Actually, we met again. You remember Mississippi Burning? And then they had that big meeting in Jackson with SNCC people to think about Mississippi Burning, so that was my first trip back to meet with other movement people and Dave was there. We sat up one night in the hotel talking and I talked to him about what I was doing with The Algebra Project and just about the same time, Steve Suitts who was now running the Southern Regional Council, so he had gotten some money from the Ford Foundation to look at doing sort of the groundwork for setting up an RFP for the black belt, so he had a little money. He agreed to give some of that to The Algebra Project to work in the black belt and Dave agreed to head that up. That's how we hooked back up.

BOND: Fannie Lou Hamer?

MOSES: I met Fannie Lou Hamer, I'll never forget it, August 31st, 1962. Amzie has organized a school bus to take people from Louisville down to Indianola, the county seat, and so we're on this bus and they're mostly older women in their 50s, and then Joe McDonald there. I think he's the only man there, Rebecca and Joe McDonald, and so I'm sitting up front and there's this lady sitting right behind me who's turned around facing the back of the bus and when the bus pulls off, she starts singing and she never stops. It's one church song. It's like she knew every song that anybody had sung in a black church. What was actually happening was she was really driving away fear. The people were really immersed in the messages of the song and that was Mrs. Hamer. We got off and tried to leaflet. They arrested us. We were in jail for overnight and then John Doar sent Bob Owens down and got us out so I wasn't around when she went back. The Marlow Plantation then told her that she would have to leave.

BOND: And she said, "I didn't come down here to vote for Mr. Marlow, I came down here to vote for myself."

MOSES: That's right. Then she went and stayed in Louisville for a while and then you remember that conference SNCC had at Nashville in 1962. We looked her up. Charles McLaurin went and found her and got her to that conference and then she became part of SNCC.

BOND: Annie Devine?

MOSES: So, Annie Devine, I didn't interface a lot with because she lived in Canton and Canton was part of the CORE district so I wasn't really working that area. I got to know her better when I came back to Mississippi and was working with The Algebra Project.

BOND: E.W. Steptoe whom we've mentioned before?

MOSES: Amzie sent me to C. [Curtis] C. Bryant and then it was C.C. who sent me out, actually took me out, to Steptoe's because Steptoe sent word to him that he wanted some of those voter registration workers after it got kind of on the airwaves that we were doing this voter registration work after Mrs. [Scolby] and them went down to Liberty, so Steptoe was small in terms of his physical stature and wiry, and they had a few cows. There was no indoor plumbing. There was a well outside and Shirley Jean, she was about 8 or 9. She would bring the water in. Charlie would go down the road and bring the cows in and milk them every morning, so when Herbert Lee was murdered, Sing who was Steptoe's wife was really concerned about Charlie because he had to walk those roads every day and so Marian Wright Edelman—well, at that time, she was Marian Wright—who had come down and became the first person to pass the Mississippi State Bar, she arranged for Charlie to go to school up north in Boston, a really prestigious white school and he upset the director of the school apparently because he organized— Charlie had grown up in Mississippi, his whole life in rural Mississippi was black people, when did he see white people and in what circumstances, so his first thing he did was organize all the black kids to have a black table at lunch. They got him out of there. He didn't last a year.

BOND: Do you remember you and I and I think Hollis and Curtis driving from Jackson down to McComb and we got to the car and we got to Steptoe's house and you said, "Julian, stay in the car," and I didn't stay in the car. I got out of the car and came up on the stairs with you. You knocked on the door and Mr. Steptoe put his shotgun out that door. I'll remember that until the day I die.

BOND: But let me change places. In 1964 in an interview with Robert Penn Warren, you said that [Albert] Camus's views were central to your own thinking. How did that come about?

MOSES: In college, I picked the teachers in part because I thought I like them and they would appreciate me as a student, so we had this great French teacher, Professor Hamlin, and I think the last three years I took courses with him and so my senior year, there was a course of 20th century French literature and so we read different works and Camus at that time had just— He had published The Stranger and then he published the big book, I'm blanking on the name of it, that really outlined a kind of philosophy that struck me as kind of minimal in the sense that the issue of walking this line that you had to be engaged but you didn't want to be a victim but you didn't also want to cross the line and become an executioner. So how to walk that line was the way I thought about the work that we were doing. How to do that work so that I'm not in the role of a victim but I'm also not trying to cross it and somehow be an executioner.

BOND: And was the concept of being an outsider included in this thought?

MOSES: In terms of Camus's thought? So, The Stranger, the idea I think of how do you overcome estrangement is in there, but it's the estrangement of one person against another and how do you build that bond of inaction of actual relation. How does real relation happen in an action, in the action which is living, so the idea of living with purpose, and I think that was reinforced by Amzie and C.C. and E.W., so these were people, and certainly Ella, although Ella's living at a different level but Amzie, C.C., and E.W. are living in communities, in families, but still really living a life of struggle, so I think that's the thing with Camus because he's writing about people who live a life in struggle and so how do you live that life in struggle and balance it and so I got examples of that through Amzie and C.C. They did it in different ways, but they had figured out how to live a life of struggle in the country. And in some sense, that's what I think really has made my own life have some kind of sense to it, that it's a life in struggle that I first learned about living such a life through the movement.

BOND: That's a perfect segue to a next question. How did you choose to go to Mississippi? I know that Bayard Ruston said go to Atlanta to do this and from that, you ended up going to Mississippi through Jane Stembridge but how did you think this was something you could do, you should do?

MOSES: I think it was Amzie [Moore]. What was real was Amzie. He clearly was real and he clearly had a focus and it was a focus that I clearly thought I could work with with him, but then I also— The larger picture, I think, is the sit-in movement which got me there and so we were in Atlanta the summer of '60. You guys were there. And I was watching what you all were doing. I didn't see myself being involved in what you guys were doing in Atlanta with the sit-ins, but when I reached Amzie and saw what he wanted to do, I could see myself doing that which is basically this idea, well, you're going to talk to people and you can't go to register, but you are going to get them, work with them, to go down and register, so it's this difference, again, with this issue that Ella [Baker] identified between helping people into leadership versus being a leader that's doing something. The Freedom Riders, they're the leaders, right? They're out there.

BOND: They're risking their lives.

MOSES: They're risking their lives.

BOND: But you did the same thing.

MOSES: Yes. But not out front, right? I'm escorting someone to the courthouse.

BOND: You get beaten for doing that.

MOSES: You get beaten, yes, but there's a difference between, well, we're going to plan this action and I'm going to be out in front as opposed to talking to people to say, well, you guys have to decide if you're going to act and if you act, we're going to be with you.

BOND: You mentioned a moment ago a Quaker professor and I just wondered how important were Quaker influences on your life.

MOSES: So, it's interesting because it picked up at Hamilton with this professor and so he and his wife who was also a Quaker arranged for me to go to Europe. This was the summer of '55 between my junior and senior year and then the next year as I was getting ready to leave campus, all of a sudden he said, "would you like to go to Japan?" [laughs] and so they were looking for someone to go to this retreat they were holding in Japan so after I graduated, I went to Japan with the Quakers and then when I got to Harvard, the most friendly professor, Roderick Firth, was also a Quaker. After my first year there, I needed funds. I talked to him and he arranged for me to live in the Quaker meeting house so they had a couple of really small rooms all the way up in the attic and they could keep a student in each room and you helped keep the house clean and shovel snow, so I lived with them for a couple of years while I was in graduate school, so there's been this kind of interplay in my life.

BOND: You went to France and to Belgium and to Germany with the Quakers?

MOSES: That was the summer of '55. This was with the American Friends Service Committee and that's a branch of the Quaker operation and we did work camps there. My first one, Belgium, was at a summer camp for kids and we built a little dormitory for them and then the second one was up in Germany. We were picking potatoes in a hospital and then France, we were with Les Castors - the Beavers - so we were actually working as apprentice to journeymen who were building. They were actually builders. They were building, it was a big housing project for workers.

BOND: I'm not sure where this fits in our chronology but how did you become connected with Frankie [Franklin] Lymon?

MOSES: [laughs] Here's what happened. When my mother passed away and so I was in my second year at Harvard and I left and I was intending to go back and, in fact, I had packed up my stuff and was getting ready to go and the phone rang and I picked it up and the police told me that they had just picked up my father and taken him to Bellevue, that he had broken down, had a nervous breakdown in front of the funeral house and so I stayed then in New York and dropped out of school, but I needed a job. I had had a John Hay Whitney Fellowship to graduate school. Martin Kilson was on the same kind of fellowship at Harvard at the same time I was there. We used to meet with, I think his name was Robert Jones who was the director of these fellowships so I went to him asking him about work and he said, "well, we just got a notice from the Professional Children's School that Frankie Lymon needs a tutor because he wants to go on tour, he's underage and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children won't let him tour unless he has a tutor. So I went down and interviewed with the guy who kind of owned him as a performer.

BOND: His manager, probably.

MOSES: His manager who was head of what was then called Roulette Records and I met him at this nightclub he was opening up on the east side of Harlem called The Knights of the Roundtable, so I'm this Harvard student. I tell him, "well, I want this job, but if Frankie won't study for me, I'm not going to keep it. I'm going to leave." They were paying big money, $125.00 a week, to be his tutor. So we went on. It was Jerry Lee Lewis and the Big Bopper and so you had a bus of performers, a bus of musicians, and Chuck [Charles Edward Anderson] Berry and his purple Cadillac. So we went all around through the Midwest so Frankie wouldn't study for me, so I told them, "well, I'm leaving. I'm not going to-"

BOND: The reason I ask this question is because I read some place that you saw in spite of having grown up in Harlem, the biggest collection of black people in the United States, that this tour made you realize that there was a black nation within the nation.

MOSES: Within the nation.

BOND: How did that realization come to you?

MOSES: It appears in [Nicholas] Lemann's book about the Great Migration, so I had to go on that tour before I could see Harlem as an appendage in New York City because everywhere we went there were these little black communities that were appendages in the towns that they were performing in so it was eye opening.

BOND: I would think so. When you look back at your life, when did you begin to think of yourself as a leader and I know, Bob, you're going to say I'm not a leader, but you were a leader and are a leader today. Did you ever think of yourself as a leader?

MOSES: Well, again, what I thought about a lot is the line that Ella [Baker] drew, so I think that what we did in Mississippi to hold the space open for the sharecroppers to develop the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party because we couldn't be the leaders of that party and so developed that idea of helping to develop leadership, but I think of the same thing with The Algebra Project. A lot of people were pushing that we should have a youth wing of The Algebra Project and what I had in mind was this other idea, so we kept a space open so that eventually what became the Young People's Project could actually walk into the space and own it and so they had their own autonomous organization, really different than your youth wing of an adult organization. So, that leadership was keeping the space open. Now, within The Algebra Project, I also exercised leadership. Part of that is what one of our board members calls managing the vision, making sure— Well, what is the vision that the project is working on and how does this little initiative that someone is proposing, really is it congruent with the vision. People have a hard time really understanding, one, what the vision is or having a vision and then keeping on track with the vision so that the little things that you want to do don't actually become obstacles to this grander vision. I think that was the issue in keeping a space open for the young people to form the Young People's Project because all the times people were coming up with suggestions to do this or do that, but if you did that, then you were actually setting up an obstacle that would have to be torn down if young people actually decided that they were going to become what they did, what they became.

BOND: It's interesting you mention that because the next question is what do you see as the difference between vision, philosophy and style? Can you describe the interaction between these three things for you—vision, philosophy, and style?

MOSES: The style— In The Algebra Project, I'm thinking there was a COFO [Council of Federated Organizations] style that we worked out that had to do with the style of holding a meeting and so what we'd stumbled on was how to hold a meeting so that the sharecroppers could actually become real formers of the strategy and of the actual work that was going to be done, so what we did is get away with the platform where the leaders sit and talk. They had to sign up when they came in which problem they wanted to work on and they were helping to generate problems to be working on and then sit with just that problem and that group figure out something about it and try to go do something with it and then come back and report out, so actually that style we've taken into the math classroom. How do you get the students to actually have ownership of the teaching and learning of the math, so it can't come from a talking head in the front of the classroom, you've got to figure out a way in which the kids in groups learn how to work in groups on problems and figure out what they can do about it. So, this kind of style of also the decentralized style that the Mississippi theater really embodied that has actually also— We've taken that into The Algebra Project and it's a style in which you're not trying to build a big bureaucracy with people who are the experts to go out and show what to do and how to do it. You're really trying to, again, the same thing where you were trying to build local capacity around the Mississippi [thing] so he's trying to do the same thing in communities or schools with the teachers and the students. You can have a vision that says, well, I mean, we're trying to get— We had a meeting at ETS [Educational Testing Service] this past December and we put on the table that we should have a vision about a standard for mathematics achievement for the lowest quartile as opposed to the current metaphor which was close the achievement gap which is a meaningless metaphor. What we should put out is that there should be a platform metaphor that every kid graduating from high school, all of these kids in the bottom quartile, they should stand on a platform from which they can step into college math for college credit so that's a different kind of vision for education. But the question of the style—how would you go about making that happen, so for us, the style has to do with what I just described, the issue of the teachers.

BOND: And what about philosophy?

MOSES: Yes. So, philosophy, I mean, in some sense, philosophy is trying to figure out the big big questions and I think the big question in this country has been whether or not the idea of constitutional people— I mean, we're a constitutional democracy. In the end, it's the written constitution and the concepts in it that really sort of frame the idea as a democracy in some sense, so the philosophy that's underneath that I find is in the Preamble, the idea that the class of people called the We the People class should actually be the ones who are framing the context for what happens and so the crisis as I see it in our country now is that that class is almost completely dormant, silent. And if I think about the movement, what happened was the movement actually enabled a We the People moment which was able to force, because you have— I mean, the forces are the national federal government and then the states, but without a We the People force, there's no way to get the feds to actually act on things that overcome what the states want to do which are regressive. The philosophy in this country that it needs is the philosophy about the expansion, the ongoing expansion of the We the People force in the country.

BOND: Now, Clayborne Carson in his book on SNCC attributes this statement to you: "if you go out and work with your people, then the leadership will emerge." Can you elaborate on that?

MOSES: Yes. I'm thinking that that's from Ella [Baker] and Amzie [Moore], in some sense, so I'm watching the kids that I worked with, 7th and 8th graders in the ‘90s, in the early '80s, rather, they hit their 20s in the early '90s, and I was working in Cambridge with them when they were middle school kids and now I'm working with middle school kids in Brinkley Middle School in Jackson and they come down in the summer of '95 and some of them stay on for the school year of '95-'96, so basically every time I see them, I'm thinking, well, the young kids have to get their act together, you guys have to get your act together, so I'm working with them and they're working with the middle school kids and it takes a year but they actually get their act together and decide that they're going to form something and they didn't tell me that they were deciding and then they just came and said, well, we've formed The Young People's Project. But it's actually in that work. And what was really important was that they formed the project around the idea of certain kind of work that they were going to do, not certain kinds of people who were going to be leaders with certain kinds of titles and so that idea of forming a path or a strategy around the actual work and figuring out how the work itself helps structure the organization of the work.

BOND: This is nearly the last question. How does race consciousness affect your work? Race consciousness—how does that shape what you do and what you have done?

MOSES: So I grew up as part of the black community so I'm always— That's still where I find my being.

BOND: At an earlier talk today, I heard you mention the word "race man", race man, he was a race man. You seldom hear that today.

MOSES: Right.

BOND: Are you a race man?

MOSES: Not any more. [laughs] Actually, when I think about my consciousness, I mean, I understand how I am placed in this society and what the community as I grew up in and what the roots are and I'm watching my kids and I see how they also have those roots, but what I'm consciously trying to put out is the idea in the country now, I think actually the country is ready for a kind of We the People movement which is oriented and based in the Preamble. If you take the Preamble as a tool for organizing, not as a document which was done and finished but as a tool that says there's a class of people who are We the People who are conscious of themselves as We the People who have the responsibility to keep the Constitution as a live document and to change it in a way that makes it relevant to the ongoing evolution of the country and the planet. So that's how I'm trying to see myself as such a person, trying to talk to other people, so I've been giving talks now where I ask people to recite with me the Preamble and think about that it doesn't say We the President, We the Congress, We the Supreme Court, it doesn't even say We the Citizens because the idea of citizenship couldn't be defined before you had a constitution, so it addresses We the People so no one can stop us from actually— The only people who can stop us from actually having such a movement are ourselves, but the government and the states and the Supreme Court, the courts, they can't stop us from having such a consciousness, so that's the consciousness that I'm really trying to both rethink for myself and to put out there for the country.

BOND: Bob Moses, thank you for being with us.

MOSES: Thanks for having me.