Obstacles to Unity

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Obstacles to Unity
Coming Of Age In Mississippi, Anne Moody's poignant autobiographical account of growing up black in Mississippi in the years surrounding the Civil Rights Movement, allows us to peer through a window into a world that no textbook could accurately represent. What we see forces us to discard any illusions of the Movement: that it was an effortless transition to improved race-relations, that it consisted of a unified Southern black front battling segregation and white oppression, and that the aims of the Movement were satisfied by its end in the 6os. The image of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to the masses about his dream for the nation during the March on Washington rally at the Lincoln Memorial has come to symbolize the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Moody's firsthand experience paints a different picture, detailing the struggle and division that served as obstacles to the Movement and to the unity of the black community as a whole. The black South, as depicted in Moody's autobiography, was deeply divided internally by issues of skin tone, economics and age, and externally faced with manipulation and intimidation by whites, factors that together proved a formidable adversary to the unity of the Southern black population.

Despite the tendency to view black Americans as a single group, Moody describes the stratifications that existed within the Southern black communities she grew up amongst. Her early memory of her father's mistress, Florence, for whom he left Moody's mother, recalls Florence as "a mulatto, high yellow with straight black hair," "the envy of all the women on the plantation." A mulatto was a person of light brown, or "yellow" skin who was of mixed descent, part Negro, and part Caucasian. Moody's testimony clearly shows that feelings of superiority existed among those of lighter skin tone, as with Florence. Another example of this racial stratification is seen when Raymond's family is introduced into Moody's...
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