Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Brown still unfinished business

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.