Unit 1 - Unit 1 Tupelo, Mississippi Elvis Aaron Presley was...

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Unit 1 Tupelo, Mississippi Elvis Aaron Presley was born in East Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. He came into the world poor and cut-off from most of the benefits of life in America but not from the hopes and dreams that shape the American consciousness. Gladys Love Presley, his mother, was one of eight children born to a poor Mississippi sharecropper and his invalid wife. Vernon Presley, his father, came from a similar background and is usually described as a “failed Mississippi sharecropper.” In the social and economic hierarchy of the South, this meant that the Presley family lived in near-equal status to that of the Pennimans of Macon, Georgia, who gave the world Little Richard. The Presleys, of course, were different from the Pennimans in that they were white and the Pennimans were black. But, despite the perceived advantage that this distinction in color would seem to have provided the Presleys, in matters of day-to-day living, there was very little that separated these two families from one another. They worked hard, persevered in the face of constant misfortune, found strength in god and the church, and never surrendered their hopes to despair. But, for both of these families, poverty was the central reality of their lives, and they just couldn’t seem to escape from its grasp. In certain ways, white poverty like the Presley’s was more difficult and debilitating than black poverty. For one thing, poverty in the African American community was a fact of life, something common to all black Southerners and not a reflection of one’s personal worth or merit. To be black in the South meant being poor and deprived of any opportunity to alter or improve one’s condition; it came as an expectation and an inescapable reality of Southern life. But white poverty was different. It was viewed as a mark of personal failure or fault, as if poverty could only be arrived at by a lack of ambition or a conscious decision to embrace it. For the Presley’s, poverty was something that could never be understood or accepted as a simple fact of life. It was always a hardship endured with the added burdens of guilt, doubt, and self- reproach. The Presleys were religious people and it was the church that provided them with their greatest measure of strength and hope. They were members of the First Assembly of God, a Pentecostal Church. Colloquially, Pentecostals were known as “Holy Rollers” because their services were frequently characterized by spontaneous displays of physical expression including jumping up- and-down, writhing on the floor, shaking side-to-side, and other manifestations of ecstatic possession. Their services were also rooted in song and the church brought music into the life of the Presley family. It was the church that introduced Elvis to music and gospel would be the music that he loved most throughout his life. “When I was four or five,” Elvis remembered, “all I looked forward to was Sundays, when we all could go to church. This was all the singing
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Unit 1 - Unit 1 Tupelo, Mississippi Elvis Aaron Presley was...

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