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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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Not a Happy Time

Not a Happy Time

(p.253) Chapter Nine Not a Happy Time
Robert Parris Moses

Laura Visser-Maessen

University of North Carolina Press

Zooming in on the effect of Freedom Summer on Moses and SNCC, this final chapter illuminates the internal breakdown of SNCC and Moses’s eventual departure from the organization in 1965. It chronicles his struggle to reconstitute some feeling of movement unity in the increasingly hierarchical and nationalist SNCC. A close-up analysis of Moses’s post-Freedom Summer activities including his time spent in Africa in 1964 and 1965 and participation in the anti-Vietnam War movement, reveals the lessons he drew from these experiences, and how they differed from the responses of (most) SNCC-workers, including his wife Dona Richards. Special attention is given to the ‘floater’/‘hardliner’-debate about SNCC’s structure and his position paper and role during the crucial Waveland meeting, while contesting the historic depiction of Moses as the leader of the ‘floaters.’ Other central themes include the benefits and disadvantages of participatory democracy, the juxtaposition of Moses’s views with those of James Forman, the significance of his departure from SNCC, and his legacy. Prominent in these discussions are Moses’s name change ceremony, his alleged decision to stop speaking to whites, supposed embrace of black nationalism, and his battle fatigue.

Keywords:   Internal breakdown of SNCC, Africa, Anti-Vietnam War movement, Dona Richards, floater hardliner debate, Waveland meeting, James Forman, Name change, Black nationalism, Battle fatigue

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