The Moral and Spiritual Dimensions of Freedom Movement Exemplars

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ABSTRACT This exploratory study examined the life stories of Freedom Movement exemplars. Previous exemplar studies have indicated the presence of spiritual factors in the consideration of motivations behind exemplary action. The present study utilized the Life Story Interview (McAdams, 2008) with Freedom Movement exemplars, whose existing language explicitly stated moral and spiritual dimensions. For this study, Life Story Interviews were scored for moral personality characteristics as well as for agency, communion, redemptive sequences, and contamination sequences. Results indicated that spiritual elements were present in the Life Story interviews of Freedom Movement exemplars. Spiritual dimensions were discussed in the shaping of the exemplars’ lives, offering meaning and purpose to them. Freedom Movement exemplar scores for moral personality characteristics were exceedingly high, including the normally polar characteristics of dominance and nurturance. Previous exemplar research (e.g., Walker & Frimer, 2007) has suggested some divergence in characteristics between exemplars, where caring exemplars tended to be more nurturing and brave exemplars tended to be more dominant. Freedom Movement exemplars exhibited both moral personality characteristics of dominance and nurturance, implying they possess an unusual makeup of moral personality characteristics.

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Civil Rights, Freedom Movement, Moral Psychology, Morality, Spiritual Psychology, Spirituality