Term Paper: Civil Rights Coming of Age

Pages: 5 (1499 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] For example, women are not all poor, and not all persons of color.

Moody spends the bulk of her political activism working exactly how Sitkoff describes the spirit of the movement, as a set of idealistic groups like the NAACP, empowered by influxes of money and power. However much these organizations did for breaking down the legal barriers related to racial parity, there were other layers of civil rights that Moody discusses and which are omitted from many historical analysis of the movement. For example, work accomplished by Martin Luther King, Jr. was directed toward judicious subverting of the black codes and social norms that perpetuate racism. All that was good and great; even Moody was swept up in the power and idealism of the movement.

Yet Moody also becomes disillusioned at what she feels is the lack of concrete vision for truly transforming the lives of African-Americans. She states, "I sat on the grass and listened to the speakers, to discover we had 'dreamers' instead of leaders leading us. Just about every one of them stood up there dreaming."[footnoteRef:2] Moody of course refers directly to Dr. Martin Luther King. The idealism was a dream, whereas Moody and others like her wanted more concrete action. In fact, too much idealism was harming the civil rights movement. [2: Moody, Anne, 1968. Coming of Age in Mississippi, p. 335.]

Mainly, Moody understands that the civil rights movement is being fought from within a white power structure. To achieve equality, the entire system needs to be dismantled and reconstructed. In this way, Anne Moody would have been more able to develop a cohesive civil rights code within the framework of Black Nationalism and the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X, and his predecessor W.E.B. DuBois, encouraged black self-empowerment from outside of the frame of the dominant culture.

By the end of Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne has developed a mature and cohesive historical analysis that is more thorough than historians have granted to the movement in general. Moody has been hardened by poverty and the inability of structural inequities to budget in spite of the powerful legal action taken by groups like the NAACP. This is not to say she is unaware of the positive and radical transformations that the Civil Rights movement entailed. Yet Moody has been driven down by the lack of access to social, cultural, economic, and political power. Her formative years as a political activist were spent with seminal civil rights groups like the NAACP and CORE. These organizations do good work, as Sitkoff and Garrow both point out. The organizations represented the first time in history that African-americans from different geographic regions were able to pool resources and efforts in helping each other overcome racism. In the end, though, it seems like true racial parity in the United States remains just a dream.

In "A Leader for His Time: Martin Luther King, Jr.," David Garrow offers exactly the type of cold, detached, and overly idealistic perspective that Moody's narrative critiques. Her experience as a domestic is by far the issue that most makes Moody embittered about race relations in America. Moody spent much of her childhood watching her mother be beaten down by the system, and then finding herself in a similar position in spite of her apparent academic aptitudes. Anne watches the white children that she watches at work thrive because they are white and have white privilege. Anne does very well in school, but she soon realizes there is a glass ceiling when it comes to access to higher education. These structural inequities are what makes Anne Moody seem cynical compared with many historians.

Ideally, a synthesis between the idealism and realism of the Civil Rights movement will prevail. Experiences like those of Anne Moody show that the Civil Rights movement was not the end of struggle. The struggle for racial parity continues because structural inequities and institutionalized racism have created the problems that continue to plague black communities. Moody's narrative complements and challenges the traditional historiographies, just as it is necessary to read Malcolm X as well as Dr. King. Traditional histories of civil rights tend to whitewash their material and favor the joys while overlooking the many sorrows.

References

Cobbs-Hoffman and Blum, Edward J., 2012. Major Problems in American History, Volume II. Cengage.

Garrow, David J. "A Leader for his Time."

Moody, Anne, 1968. Coming of Age in Mississippi. Random House.

Sitkoff, Harvard. "Preconditions for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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