Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

Nothing Less Than an Activist: Marge Baroni, Catholicism, and the Natchez, Mississippi Civil Rights Movement

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in History

First Advisor

Charles R. Wilson

Second Advisor

William Hustwit

Third Advisor

Zandria Robinson

Abstract

This thesis is a religious and social history of the life of Natchez, Mississippi Catholic activist Marjorie R. Baroni (1924-1986). The study examines Baroni's Catholic faith-driven activism as a counter-narrative to the dominant Protestant narratives of religious motivations in the greater civil rights movement. In analyzing Baroni's story as a lived theological drama, I offer Baroni as a vessel for studying often overlooked Catholic influences in the movement: (1) The activist Catholic faith promoted by Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement (2) The effects of the more inclusive decrees of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) on the Catholic Church in the American South and (3) Catholic leadership, specifically Josephite priests, in local movement activities in predominantly Catholic southern cities like Natchez. In constructing this project, I conducted the bulk of my primary research in reviewing Baroni's correspondence and essays, Baroni family oral history interviews, personal journals, and The Catholic Worker newsletters in the Marge Baroni Collection at the Special Collections Library of the University of Mississippi. This thesis offers Baroni's story of Catholic activism in the Natchez, Mississippi civil rights movement as a substantial contribution to scholarship on the history of the Catholic Church in the South; the roles of women, Josephite priests, and African American parishioners of the southern Catholic Church in the civil rights movement; the hitherto unexplored connections between Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement and the civil rights movement; and the ecumenical religious motivations of civil rights activists.

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