Moses Felder is a humble man so prominent in the Edgewood neighborhood that a street honors him. The Hill’s Barber Shop owner doesn’t like to talk about it, but his work to help his neighbors is likely to continue affecting generations to come.
By Hannah Slater and Kelly Ann Krueger
April 17, 2018
Some drivers from outside Columbia’s Edgewood neighborhood might think Moses Felder Way is just an ordinary street. But the man behind the name is far from ordinary – Moses Felder, the owner of Hill’s Barber Shop, has dedicated his life to bettering the community he grew up in.
Felder’s influence in shaping both Edgewood and Columbia dates to the civil rights movement.
In the early to mid-‘60s, Second Nazareth Baptist Church, across from Hill’s, became a command center for the civil rights movement in Columbia.
Community members and students from nearby schools such as historically black Benedict College would gather at the church to march. Felder was among those who led a coordinated effort to integrate businesses along Main Street.
“We wanted to make sure to advocate to the people the nonviolence,” says Felder, now 79. “We did not want to create violence.”
These marches would begin at Second Nazareth, go up Main Street and then return to the church. After a few years of persistent demonstrations, businesses began to desegregate.
“I like to think that a lot of young people was a part of that, all across the country. I feel like they made a difference. It was a scary thing, though,” Felder says. “Just demonstrating for the cause that we thought we had the right to do. We deserved that.”
Princess Cooper has known Felder since 2008, when she began attending Second Nazareth, and has witnessed how he has helped the community.
“He has experienced a lot of racism, and he does a lot of good things for good people, no matter what color they are,” Cooper said.
Felder attended Second Nazareth Baptist Church while growing up and became a deacon in 1992. He says the church’s former minister, the Rev. William Bowman, inspired him.
“I saw that he tried to invest in the fight for the rights of others, and so he instilled in me a lot, just locally,” Felder says.
Felder had gotten haircuts at Hill’s as a boy, and in 1968 he bought the shop when the original owner, John Hill, died. Now, with the intense days of the civil rights movement winding down, Felder’s focus turned to helping his neighbors in close-knit Edgewood, one of the city’s poorest areas.
He and other community members started the Community Improvement Cooperative Council and worked with the Columbia Housing Authority to better residents’ living conditions. Felder also sits on the board of the Edgewood Foundation Center, which aims to support the community’s families, especially its children, and has the backing of South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp.
The housing improved, but as the world shifted online, Edgewood didn’t even have a library to turn to. So in 2013, Felder bought a wireless router for his shop.
The only password he has ever used is his phone number. With wireless access scarce in Edgewood, where the median income is $19,383, according to City Data, Felder let people sign on without question.
“I would close the shop and then come back later, and there would be people surrounding the shop. It just warmed my heart to see all those people,” Felder says.
Gestures like this are nothing new to those who know him.
“Deac wants a place for young people to go to read and be exposed,” Cooper said. “He is concerned about the current generation, and he’s doing everything in his power to educate them.”
Columbia Police Capt. Chris White, commander of the department’s North Region, began going to Hill’s for haircuts in middle school.
“If there was a family in need within his reach, if they needed something, a care package, or groceries or something, often times he’d go into his own pocket,” White said.
Felder’s generosity is why part of Barhamville Road outside Hill’s was dedicated “Moses Felder Way” in 2017. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, legislators and community leaders were all there to honor Felder.
“That was truly an honor,” White said. “Where individuals and people that actually cared about him came out and supported the naming – and it’s well deserved.”
Felder’s neighbors say his modesty belies the impact he’s had on multiple generations.
Felder says he hasn’t done anything special. And true to form, all his awards and recognitions are tucked away in a box underneath one of the shelves in Hill’s.
“I was just part of the group,” he says. “I don’t like to give myself a lot of credit when I work with a group.”
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