Moses, with John O'Neal, on stage in a Free Southern Theater production.


Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 2


Audio Note: Audio from tape 1 cuts short by a sentence, but transcripts are complete.

Audio courtesy of the University of Kentucky.

Gilbert Moses and Richard Murphy

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Gilbert Moses
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Richard Murphy
Gilbert Moses Bio

Gilbert Moses (1942-1995) was a civil rights activist as well as an actor and a theater, motion picture, and television director. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Moses began acting in community theater at the age of nine. Moses studied at Oberlin College and the Sorbonne. He became a staff member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and, in the early 1960s, he co-founded the Free Southern Theater with fellow SNCC staff member John O'Neal. The Free Southern Theater toured the South during the 1960s, including during the Freedom Summer of 1964, when it performed the documentary play "In White America" in 16 Mississippi communities. Moses left the group after it received threats from southern whites and some members of the company were arrested. Following his involvement with the Free Southern Theater, Moses directed stage productions on and off-Broadway, winning an Obie Award for the off-Broadway production of Amiri Baraka's "Slave Ship" in 1969.  

Richard Murphy Bio

Richard Murphy was a poet and white civil rights activist in the 1960s. A graduate of Oberlin College, Murphy moved to Mississippi and worked on the Mississippi Free Press. During a Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee demonstration in Jackson, Mississippi, on February 3, 1964, a policeman struck Murphy with his rifle.


Moses discusses the genesis of his interest in civil rights and his plan to found and operate the Free Southern Theater. He discusses Du Bois's theory of African Americans' double-consciousness and describes the importance of "Negritude," which he characterizes as a sense of racial pride among African Americans. Moses discusses southern whites' culture and whether mob violence in the South represents the will of all southern whites. Moses and Murphy discuss whether attitudes toward race are changing among younger southerners and also considers whether better economic opportunities for poor African Americans and whites might be a necessary first step to ending racial strife. Moses also discusses sectional differences in race relations, and Murphy describes the meaning of the slogan "Freedom Now." The two discuss their experience in Jackson after a day of unrest on the Jackson State College campus. Moses describes African Americans' stereotypes of whites and contends that the presence of white activists can sometimes make civil rights work more difficult. Moses and Murphy describe the African Americans and whites coming to the South to participate in the civil rights movement, and they discuss the effect that demonstrations in the South have had on the North, and vice versa. Moses closes the interview by describing the Free Southern Theater, his hopes for the troupe, and the usefulness of theater to the civil rights movement.


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