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Robert Parris MosesA Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots$
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Laura Visser-Maessen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469627984

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469627984.001.0001

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You Killed My Husband

You Killed My Husband

(p.61) Chapter Three You Killed My Husband
Robert Parris Moses

Laura Visser-Maessen

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter analyzes Moses’s first civil rights campaign in McComb, Mississippi, and why it gained a mythical quality in movement history. Tracing how Moses’s understanding of organizational leadership matured as he discovered what organizing in Mississippi meant in practice, it explains how the situation he found there fostered the idea of forming small groups of fulltime workers who utilized a distinctive organizational culture based in personal relationships and democratic procedures and used it to foster grassroots leadership.The chapter specifies Moses’s struggles in setting up voting drives in McComb and neighboring Amite County, and how his approach corresponded with past activismand with those in SNCC’s direct action wing and Atlanta headquarters. Illuminating how Moses and other SNCC-workers enticed local youth and middle class blacks like C.C. Bryant and E.W. Steptoe, it underscores how their presence served as a catalyst for locals without sacrificing their agency.Other central foci are the effect of the Caston beating, the October 1961 student march, and Herbert Lee’s murder on Moses’s leadership, the significance of SNCC’s organizational culture for its success, and the role the McComb experience played in SNCC’s transformation to a professional organization and in propelling Moses as a civil rights leader.

Keywords:   McComb, Amite County, C.C. Bryant, E.W. Steptoe, Herbert Lee, Caston beating, Organizational leadership, Student march

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