SANTA CRUZ -- Bob Moses, a Harlem-born leader of the American Civil Rights movement who went on to found an educational equity organization, will be featured at UC Santa Cruz's 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation on Feb. 6.

The Harvard-educated Moses, who in the 1960s was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and its Mississippi Project, created the Algebra Project in 1982 as a MacArthur Foundation fellow. The project began as a math program in a Cambridge, Mass. school and by the 1990s had been expanded to more than 200 middle schools, according to the project's website.

The organization, which counts the actor Danny Glover among its board members, advocates that a quality education for every child is a civil right. It is grounded in the notion that children need algebra training in middle school otherwise a lack of math skills becomes a barrier to college and career.

Moses, 77, said the legacy of racial inequality remains evident in education. He argues that African-Americans went from being "constitutional property" to "constitutional people," but we're never fully made equal due to social policies that have restricted access to education.

"We run failing schools but we can't say that," he said, noting that some students are rescued through improvement programs rather than lifting the achievement of all children.

"This generation of young people have a real question before them: whether they will move to really demand that young people be constitutional people in this country," he said. "What is this country's commitment to its young people?"

After leading voter registration drives and sit-ins in the South, Moses left the U.S. in the 1960s for Canada after being drafted for military service, according to a 2006 profile in U.S. News and World Report. He later taught math in Tanzania before returning to the U.S. and pursuing a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard University.

UCSC history professor David Anthony, who nominated Moses to speak at the convocation honoring Martin Luther King Jr., remembered how the educator captivated an multigenerational crowd while speaking at Stevenson College a few years ago.

"He has set an extraordinary example in his life and is a person who continues in his eighth decade working for social justice," Anthony said. "What he is engaging is the entire education process: No one is too young and no one is too old. Innumeracy is as much a problem for the present period as illiteracy was for earlier periods.

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IF YOU GO

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEMORIAL CONVOCATION

WHAT: 29th annual event honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
WHO: Featured speaker Bob Moses, founder of the Algebra Project
WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 6
WHERE: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St.
COST: Free
INFOrmation: events.ucsc.edu/mlk/