The spokesperson for Gov. Tate Reeves was asked on July 25 for a comment from the governor on the death of Bob Moses, a civil rights icon and education innovator.
Moses, who died at the age of 86, was not a Mississippian. He was born in New York and lived his later life in south Florida. But his contributions to Mississippi in terms of developing the strategy in 1964 for mass registration of disenfranchised Black Mississippians to vote and of developing the integrated Freedom Democratic Party are monumental in the history of the state and nation.
Still, it was not surprising that the governor’s office did not respond. Reeves’ staff often ignores requests for comment from the media. While the governor sometimes ignores such requests, he often goes straight to the people, so to speak, by commenting on social media — just like his political hero former President Donald Trump would often do.
Reeves didn’t even do that. The week Moses died, though, the governor did express sympathy via social media regarding the death of conservative talk show host J.T. Williamson.
“SuperTalk Mississippi lost a great talk show host. America lost a great patriot. The conservative movement in Mississippi lost one of its best spokesmen, and I lost a friend of nearly 20 years today.
“The JT Show family is in our prayers,” the governor said on Facebook on July 31, six days after the death of Moses.
Also, days after the death of Moses, the first-term Republican governor spoke in one of the most public venues in Mississippi: the annual political speakings at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia.
Many believed it would be appropriate for Reeves to praise Moses on the historic stage where, unfortunately, so much racist rhetoric had been spewed by Mississippi political leaders of the past.
After all, many Neshoba Countians have worked in more recent years to overcome its past. Former Secretary of State Dick Molpus, a Neshoba native, gave a historic speech in the 1990s in his home county apologizing on behalf of his hometown for the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were killed in Neshoba as they worked on Moses’ mission to register Black Mississippians to vote.
But again, Reeves did not mention Moses. What Reeves and state House Speaker Philip Gunn did talk extensively about at the Fair were the evils of teaching so-called critical race theory to Mississippi children, and they promised to stop it.
Reeves touted his “Patriotic Education Fund” to pay schools to not teach “revisionist history.”
No one can cite an example of a Mississippi public school teaching critical race theory, an academic concept based on the premise that racism is not just the result of individuals but also something embedded in American legal systems and policies. Some school districts nationally are working to help students garner empathy for those who might be subjected to racism.
Bob Moses had that empathy. He was a math teacher in New York who was moved to come to Mississippi to join the civil rights movement. He is not as well-known as some other leaders of that era — in part because he was soft spoken, but no doubt was one of the intellectual leaders of the movement. Like other leaders of the time, he often was jailed and brutally beaten.
The New York Times tells of an instance where Moses was attacked by a family member of a Mississippi sheriff with a knife handle. Bleeding from his head, Moses finished his work registering voters before going to find an African American doctor who would sew up his wound. He needed nine stitches.
Later in life, Moses started the well respected Algebra Project to help ensure people of color in both large cities and rural areas were being taught much needed math skills.
Moses was honored in 2000 by the Mississippi Legislature. He spoke to legislators that day. The resolution honoring Moses said, “We do hereby commend the career of Mr. Robert P. Moses, pivotal Civil Rights movement organizer and developer of the Algebra Project, and wish him continued success in future endeavors.”
Katie Blount, executive director of the Mississippi Department of History and Archives, sent out a statement on the day of Moses’ death pointing out “the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s fifth gallery, ‘A Tremor in the Iceberg,’ is inspired by his description of the movement in Mississippi: ‘A tremor in the middle of the iceberg from a stone which the builders rejected.’”
Reeves said at Neshoba County Fair that through his “Patriotic Education Fund” he wanted to promote “the incredible accomplishments of the American way.”
Well, wouldn’t that include Bob Moses?