Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Senior Art Thesis Next Last
Zana Audy
Bailey White: A Changing Southern Society
The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
Bailey White
Through her characterization of the elderly, Bailey White depicts the development of a modern Southern society. Her novel and short stories make the distinction between antiquity and modernity by communicating the reactions of the community to the changing times. The citizens of the small town in Georgia deal with the changing traditions, business establishments, technology, standards and ethics. These are all the product of changing generations. White writes about three generations in her works, the old, the middle-aged and the young. Although, with time, even the middle-aged have trouble facing modernity the elders are the most affected. Typical reactions to progress in White’s stories are resisting new ways, accepting change but keeping the past alive and adapting to modernity. However, the citizens in White’s stories are not the only Southerners to react to change. Prior to the setting of White’s stories, residents of Birmingham, Alabama faced the change which the Birmingham campaign brought.

Although the deaths of the four girls in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama immediately sparked a reaction of increased violence and a continuation of institutional racism, through the courageous actions of everyday individuals, the Civil Rights Movement progressed and bombings in Birmingham ceased. The political and social situation of the bombing during the climatic battle of the Birmingham campaign in the 1960s contributed to the strong reactions and polarization that occurred in the aftermath. However, the tragedies which occurred during the campaign encouraged more than negative reactions. With time, the disgust felt by Birmingham citizens and the nation escalated to the point where they could no longer stay quiet and felt a call to action. Finally through this relentless struggle the activists of the Birmingham campaign made the progress they long awaited.

Major Works Consulted:

Manis, Andrew M. A Fire You Can’t Put Out. Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1999.
McWhorter, Diane. Carry Me Home. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
White, Bailey. Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living. Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1993.
---. Sleeping at the Starlite Motel and Other Adventures on the Way Back Home. Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1995.
Photo Credit: White, Bailey. Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.
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