Robert Parris Moses: A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots

In her new book, Robert Parris Moses. A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the GrassrootsLaura Visser-Maessen (Cultural History) recasts influential civil rights leader Robert Parris Moses as an effective, hands-on organizer, safeguarding his ideals while leading from behind the scenes. By returning Moses to his rightful place among the foremost leaders of the movement, Visser-Maessen testifies to Moses’s revolutionary approach to grassroots leadership and the power of the individual in generating social change. 


Dr. Laura Visser-Maessen
Dr. Laura Visser-Maessen

One of the most influential leaders in the civil rights movement, Robert Parris Moses was essential in making Mississippi a central battleground state in the fight for voting rights. As a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Moses presented himself as a mere facilitator of grassroots activism rather than a charismatic figure like Martin Luther King Jr. His self-effacing demeanor and his success, especially in steering the events that led to the volatile 1964 Freedom Summer and the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, paradoxically gave him a reputation of nearly heroic proportions. Examining the dilemmas of a leader who worked to cultivate local leadership, Visser-Maessen explores the intellectual underpinnings of Moses’s strategy, its achievements, and its struggles.


  • Title: Robert Parris Moses. A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots (2016)
  • Author: Laura Visser-Maessen
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
  • ISBN: 9781469627984