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Reading Reflection: Coming of Age in Mississippi February 26, 2010

Filed under: Reading Journals — lkuenzi @ 6:08 am

Anne Moody’s autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi is best described as an existence of fighting. From the very first traumatic memory she records, being beaten and framed for arson by her terrible uncle, Moody brings violence and hardship to her story without even trying. From a simple beginning in Mississippi, including an unfaithful father, an emotionally tortured and fragile mother, and too many children to feed on the family’s budget, Moody is always struggling. She finally makes it out of her small town life to work as an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement, primarily through the NAACP and SNCC. While I found her work inspiring, I was most impressed and connected on a much more personal level to the immense personal transformations that Moody underwent to get from a poor black girl in Mississippi, who was mishandled and mistreated by her white employers and deeply affected by the violence towards those around her, to someone who could stare white hatred head-on and barely even balk.

In the beginning, Anne Moody was always afraid. She took things as they came, questioning them internally and struggling with the injustices around her, but rarely took occasion to speak up against what was done to her. After Mrs. Jetson claimed she was unable to pay Essie Mae for her work that week, and said she would have to pay her the next week, Moody describes her reaction by saying: “I stood there looking and feeling like a stupid fool. I didn’t say anything, though. I just left” (140). Essie Mae is similarly dumbfounded but does not speak up when Linda Jean cuts her pay in half. However, just a few short years later, Moody participates in of the first sit-ins at a White-only lunch counter and faces volatile racism head-on. Changed by the violence she witnessed, Moody was forced to put an ice cold front and pushed through the uncertainties with seeming indifference: “I waited to hear from her again. And I waited to hear in the news that someone in Centreville had been murdered. If so, I knew it would be a member of my family” (269). More than anything, Moody becomes changed by the violence she experiences by learning to channel it into a rock-hard exterior, one that cannot be broken down by hateful words or hateful actions.


Reading Reflection: Voices of Protest February 18, 2010

Filed under: Reading Journals — lkuenzi @ 6:01 am

In his comparative biography, Brinkley chronicles the lives, power roles, and circumstances for achieving greatness of Huey Long and Father Coughlin. Though he seems to emphasize the chance of circumstances in which both men rose to such immense power, credit can no doubt also be attributed to the enigmatic and contagious personalities of the “Kingfish” and the “Radio Priest.” In the case of Huey Long, who called for a redistribution of wealth through the “Share Our Weatlh” Program and supported a federally-regulated banking system , Brinkley focuses on Long’s ability to command an audience and appear relatable to the masses: though he was a politician, he worked hard to be seen by his constituents as a friend and a community-member. Father Coughlin, though his popularity came through his success as a radio broadcaster whose voice reached millions of American homes, also called for drastic economic reform (including bimetallism) and frequently lashed out at Roosevelt’s New Deal because it believed it was not sufficiently radical, and could not pull the Nation’s people out of the Great Depression.

Long and Coughlin experienced unparalleled personal and political popularity throughout their time in the limelight, but what most intrigued me about their stories were how they both met their ends: they were both great, but they allowed success to ultimately destroy them.  Long was a deeply corrupt politician who, “dynamited” people out of the way who disagreed with him. After finally agitating the wrong person, he was gunned during a low-point in his popularity, during the downswing of his career. Coughlin did not meet such a poetic end. After developing wildly unpopular anti-Semitic broadcasts, breaking formally with the Roosevelt administration and condemning U.S. entrance into World War II, he was forced off the air and vanished from the forefront of American interest and support. The power that these two men had could not be maintained, and their unsavory (to some) personalities and beliefs ultimately caused their demise.