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Autobiography as political resistance: Anne Moody's Coming of age in Mississippi

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ABSTRACT This dissertation focuses on Anne Moody's use of the autobiographical genre as an extension of her political activism. Noting consistent values and conventions that govern the writing of political

ABSTRACT This dissertation focuses on Anne Moody's use of the autobiographical genre as an extension of her political activism. Noting consistent values and conventions that govern the writing of political activists, this study asserts that Moody's narrative is best situated in the genre of political autobiography--a term coined by Angela Davis. Using Margo V. Perkins' text as a base to define autobiography as activism, this dissertation illustrates the consistent values that characterize Moody's narrative as political autobiography, resistance literature, and ultimately Black Power literature. Building on the works of Joanne Braxton, Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Davis, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, bell hooks, Margo V. Perkins, Assata Shakur, and Johnny Stover, this project demonstrates the use of Moody's autobiography as a collective form of resistance that is reflective of autobiography as activism. To frame its argument, this study theorizes how one comes into revolutionary consciousness, demonstrating the move toward activism as a process. Drawing on Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson's autobiographical theory that the "narrated I" is distinguished from the "narrating I," this study asserts, as Francoise Lionnet suggests, that the "narrating I" is the vehicle to deliver recollections relevant to the autobiographer's agenda. This study emphasizes that the early version of the self Moody creates is consciously linked to her role as a future activist, ultimately demonstrating her political evolution through the emphatic linking of the personal and political. Most importantly, this dissertation demonstrates that Moody's text represents a continuity--an autobiographical bridge--between representations of the Christian nonviolent civil rights movement and the Black Power movement of the late 1960's. This study argues that Moody's autobiography is ideologically poised at the intersection of civil rights and Black Power; therefore, it serves as both a civil rights autobiography and a Black Power autobiography. Coming of Age in Mississippi offers a unique contribution to the genre of Black Power autobiography for the way it facilitates unprecedented insight into the transition from non-violent civil rights ideology to revolutionary consciousness.

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  • 2011

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The March Continues: The Subversive Rhetoric of John Lewis's Graphic Memoir

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While the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s is one of the most famous and celebrated parts of American history, rhetoric scholars have illuminated the ways

While the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s is one of the most famous and celebrated parts of American history, rhetoric scholars have illuminated the ways this subversive movement has been manipulated beyond recognition over time. These narrative constructions play a role in preserving what Maegan Parker Brooks calls the "conservative master narrative of civil rights history," a narrative that diminishes the work of activists while simultaneously promoting complacency to prevent any challenge to the white supremacist hegemony. This dissertation argues that the graphic memoir trilogy March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell challenges this conservative master narrative through visual rhetoric, in particular through the comics techniques "braiding" and "weaving."

Braiding occurs when authors create "webs of interrelation" (Miodrag 134) by repeating a technique throughout the text, which can sometimes involve a secondary narrative (Groensteen). Braids are associations in the network of panels of the comic that go beyond the parameters of strictly linear storytelling as panels echo those the reader has encountered before. The braids in March compare the past and present through a direct juxtaposition of January 20, 2009—the inauguration day of Barack Obama—with John Lewis' activism from 1959 to 1965. While this juxtaposition risks reinforcing a progress narrative that suggests racism is in the past, in fact, the braided inauguration scenes help the reader connect the moments of the past with their present, calling to mind the ways white supremacy endures in contemporary America. Weaving refers to the reader’s action of moving back and forth in the comics narrative to create meaning, and artists use techniques that facilitate this behavior, such as leaving out or minimizing significant cues and creating a sense of ambiguity that leads the reader to become curious about the events in the sequence. Weaving can disrupt an easy linear narrative of depicted events—such as Fannie Lou Hamer's testimony at the Democratic National Convention—as artists present several opportunities for the reader to interpret these stories in ways that challenge a conservative master narrative of the events in the trilogy.

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  • 2019