Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Meeting Amzie Moore, E.W.Steptoe, David Dennis and others

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.