Coming of age in Mississippi
Was Anne Moody a radical? Essay
The early life of Anne Moody forms the basis of the book, ‘Coming of Age in Mississippi’. This book covers her life from the time she was four up to when she was twenty-four years of age. During this period of her life, she witnessed the extremes of racism between the black and white Americans in Mississippi.
Essie Mae, the main character of the book, is in real sense Anne Moody. The book records her struggles with racism in the small town, Centerville, which is in Mississippi. This essay involves a close look of the actions or rather deeds of Anne Moody in different stages of her life as expressed in the book that help in answering the question, Was Anne Moody a radical?
Anne Moody’s Childhood
Anne came from an impoverished family. She watched her parents struggle to cater for the needs of the family. They used to spend six days of the week working in a nuclear waste plant. Despite their everyday work, they were not able to fulfil the needs of their children satisfactorily. Anne was unable to watch this and just sit back. At the age of nine, Moody started working for the whites where she was able to get six dollars a week.
This helped her mother in providing for the needs of the family so that they could not feed on the same type of food everyday. This strongly showed that Anne was not comfortable with her family’s poor state and had to do something to solve the problem. She opted to work as a junior. At the age of fifteen, while living with her uncle, Anne got a job at a café in an attempt to help her mother to bring up her siblings.
Her high school life
It was during her high school education that she realised that racism between the blacks and whites had really taken roots in their society. This was after she witnessed the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy, Emmet Till. The whites killed Emmet for allegedly winking at a white woman. At that time, Anne had many questions regarding the death of the boy but she could not easily find their answers. This is because many blacks were afraid of talking against the whites.
This is evident in the instance where her own mother could not tell her anything about the boy’s murder. She also refused to tell her the meaning of NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People). Fortunately, Mrs. Rice was able to tell her the whole truth including the relationship between the whites and blacks in South America at that time. This triggered Anne’s desire to know more about the NAACP movement.
In this incident, Moody demonstrated her discomfort about the social state between the whites and the blacks. Her curiosity to know more about the death of the boy and the meaning of radical portrays her as a potential radical person. However, the book does not show any efforts of Moody trying to rescue the boy from the murder. In her college life, she revealed more of her desire to change the social situation of the people of Mississippi.
Anne Moody went to Natchez College. It was during her second year that she was able to go against the rules and regulations of an already established institution. Moody helped to organize a boycott of the campus cafeteria after a student found a maggot in her plate during one of the meals.
In another occasion during her college life, Moody together with a fellow student decided to go into the “Whites Only” section of the railways bus depot. This acted as a way of sending a message to the whites that it was time for them to put to an end to their social segregation since all people require the same treatment irrespective of their skin colour.
By going to the “whites only” section, Moody demonstrated her courage to bring equality to the two races. The single antiracism act that she did not plan or even get support from black masses clearly presented Moody as a radical person who was ready to bring a social change to the society. Though the people that gathered around them at the railways bus depot threatened violence to the two women, this did not stop Moody’s antiracism deeds.
After the experiencing the cruelty of the whites to the blacks in Mississippi, Moody’s determination to fight for freedom from racism increased tremendously. Moody became a staunch member of the civil rights movement. In one occasion, Moody accompanied by three other civil right workers went to Woolworth’s lunch counter. After they took their seats, no one served them. Later on, high school students harassed the four.
Moody posits, “They smeared them with ketchup, mustard, sugar, pies and everything on the counter… The abuse continued for almost three hours until Dr. Beittel, the president of Tougaloo College who arrived after receiving information about the violence, rescued them” (1998, p.226).
The book records that ninety white police officers stood and watched the ordeal that lasted for almost three hours. To some extend this killed Moody’s morale to bring change to the social situation in Mississippi. This experience helped Moody “understand how sick Mississippi whites were and how incurable their disease was which could prompt them even to kill to preserve the segregated Southern way of life” (1998, p.267).
In this case, Moody thought that racism was incurable which portrayed her as one who had started loosing hope in the reforms that she wanted to bring to the society. Owing to this, Moody is not fully radical because her thoughts did not rhyme with her actions. As the story closes, Moody boards a bus ferrying civil rights activists on their way to Washington D.C.; surprisingly, Moody did not participate in the singing of the civil rights movement’s anthem (Moody, 1998, p.384).
Moody’s failure to join in singing the anthem of the other civil right movement is a sign of loss of interest in the fight against racism which is evident in the last two sentences of the autobiography, ‘‘I WONDER. I really WONDER’’ (Moody, 1998, p.384). Moody’s passion to fight against racism had died down and she was wondering if it would ever succeed.
Moody was not able to bring freedom to the blacks in Mississippi. Nevertheless, she was able to set a good example to those who wanted the vice to end not only in Mississippi but also to the rest of the world. Moody was a young black who pioneered the fight against racism but she did not bring the change she wanted to the Mississippi community. This is the reason as to why one might think of Anne Moody as being radical and not so radical.
Moody, A. (1968). Coming Of Age in Mississippi. New York: Dial Press.
Coming Of Age in Mississippi: The Black Freedom Movement Essay
The word radical is used in connection with the way a person actually tends to solve a problem or provide a solution to a complex situation. The word is often used to refer to the use of extreme measures, which often lead to violent actions against those with differing views.
In her autobiographical book, coming of age in Mississippi, Anne Moody is depicted as a person with multiple characters and therefore makes it hard for one to actually describe her using one character trait. Therefore, the question of whether Moody was radical or not so radical does not have a straight forward answer. Such a matter can only be extensively tackled through an elaborate analysis of different events and actions that are reflected in her memoir.
Coming of age in Mississippi is an autobiographical book by Anne Moody. The book tries to highlight the lives of black American in the state of Mississippi, and in particular the day-to-day life of a girl child and women in general through the mind of a child. The book is in addition reflects the struggles of blacks in the state of Mississippi, during and after the civil right movements. Moreover, the book brings out clearly and demonstrates the great effort and victories associated with the movement.
The first section of the book highlights Anne’s childhood life, where she is depicted as a child from a very poor family. Similarly, the book clearly illustrates the hardships the girl is undergoing, from poverty to social tribulations such as the break-up of her parent’s marriage. The book has however a brighter side of Anne’s childhood life, where she is portrayed as a “bright, competitive and hardworking student” (Moody 16).
In addition, Anne Moody is demonstrated as a responsible girl who regardless of her tender age, is involved in domestic chore, often is found working as a house cleaner in whites’ families, in order to supplement her family’s meager earning, and eventually places something to eat on the table. According to the writer, Moody lived well with her employers. This was evidenced in the fact that she was always “invited to eat with them on the dinning table”. (Moody 17)
On other front, however, Anne’s character traits are questionable, and one may be tempted to refer to her as radical. The first instance of radicalism is portrayed in her college life, where she had been awarded a basketball scholarship for being an excellent student in class and equally a brilliant player.
Contrary to her childhood life, while in college, Anne was now more aware of the suffering of the blacks through brutal murder and discrimination (Moody 25). In addition, Moody (25) notes that the gap between the white and the blacks was widening every now and then, and that blacks were becoming poorer every other day. According to the author, “Anne was fed up with the racial segregation and the college life as well”.
It was at college when Anne started having issues with some teachers and within no time, the tension between her and teachers was overboard. Anne was opposed to the quality of food provided by the college and ultimately led the other students in demonstrating against the food. Putting this action into consideration, it may be in order to suggest that Anne behaved violently by taking such drastic measures. This is the first time her radical character traits are clearly reflected.
When Anne relocates to Tougaloo College to complete her final two years of college, she becomes aware of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (Moody 58). It is during her last two years at Tougaloo that she decided to join the Association, and eventually became very active in its activities.
This did not auger well with the administration and the local Sheriff warned her mother, that Anne’s actions were bound to bring problems to the family (Moody 145). Despite her mother’s, pleas, Anne was adamant to continue with the Association’s activities.
In this regard, one is likely to qualify Anne’s behaviors as those of a radical person. Owing to the fact that Anne did not give heed to either her mother or the local police sheriff, means that she did not mind the repercussions her actions were to cause to her family. This was a very radical action and in normal circumstances, one would have thought that Anne was to give her family the first priority and that jeopardizing their lives was not a matter of discussion.
While she was still involved with the activities of NAACP, the author remarks that Anne started contemplating how the “racial inequalities could be overthrown” (Moody, 167). This was equally a very irrational idea, because by all means, it meant that Anne was to be more involved in the Association’s activities. She engages in this new campaign, notwithstanding the fact that the Association had been prohibited in the area.
Similarly, Anne can be termed as a radical person when one puts into consideration some decisions she made in the course of her service to the Association. Although one can argue that, she was affected by her youthful age and the rebellious tendencies associated with many youths, it is equally important to note that some decision she made were so sensitive for one to completely make them alone and mostly at such a tender age.
Moody (167), remarks that Anne went to the extent of changing her name from Essie Mae to Anne Mae, simply because she felt that Essie Mae sounded more of “barnyard animal’s” name.
Her radical actions do not stop there as she at the same time walked out on her family; because her mother’s lover was not fair on her and that, he had started showing signs of sexual advances on her. This resulted in Anne moving with her father and eventually abandoning her mother and other siblings.
It is in her service to the ‘Coalition for the Organization of Racial Equality (CORE)’, that once again her character turns from radical to not so radical or somehow moderate. Though Jackson, Mississippi was a place well known for violence due to black rebellion and white supremacy, Anne is not at a single event involved in any radical measure or action.
While confronted with the task of mobilizing Negroes in order to take part in freedom voting, Anne is composed and rarely loses her temper. She is rational in most of her decision, including the idea of trying to allure voters through providing them with food and clothing. Though most of these Negro voters are ignorant of their right and always want something for nothing, Anne is categorical to them in all her approach to enlighten them.
Another incident that shows her not- so- radical character is when she is subjected to surveillance by an armed police officer. Though she had the support of many high school young men, she never took the advantage of it to harass the police officer.
Once again, when her friend and work mate Doris proposed they start carrying guns, Anne is initially against the idea, and only concurs to it once she is convinced that the arms will typically be used for hunting and not for any violent action. In addition, Anne was always sober in her decisions regardless of the fact that she is on the wanted list of the white supremacists, which means that she could be killed at any time.
Although the author has portrayed Anne as a person with mixed character traits, one can comfortably settle for the fact that Anne acted in a radical manner more in her early teenage years than in her later years. From her life in high school all through to college and finally in her working period, Moody is reflected as a person who has finally come of age and who can comfortably handle and contain her emotions.
Moody, Anne. Coming of age in Mississippi. New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2004.
Literature: Coming of age in Mississippi by Anne Moody Essay
Coming of age in Mississippi is a book written by Anne Moody. Her skilled writing leaves one with a clear picture of the hardships that the blacks went through because of racial discrimination in the United States. It also shows how as a woman she overcame challenges of male dominated society.
The blacks knew no rest and their happiness was all around hard work, poorly built houses and small salaries in contrast to their counterparts the whites who lived in well furnished houses, ate balanced diet and lived luxuriously.
To free herself and her people from slavery, Ann Moody had the urge to join civil rights when she was a teenager because she realized how much blacks were humiliated. This essay will discuss the importance of this book and show how racism had brought suffering to the blacks making them to live miserably though they worked very hard.
From the first chapter, the struggles of life in black families started from their young age. Father Diddly had married the narrator’s mother Toosweet who was known for her liveliness. She was beautiful and always sang as she walked to and from work. The narrator was almost four years old and her sister was past half a year old.
Their parents were working for very long hours from Monday to Saturday. However, they lived in abject poverty. They lived in wooden houses. Near their home was Mr. Carters’ house who the narrator‘s mother had always talked about (Moody 7).
The book captures a tough life of poverty which the Negroes lived. The busy schedule of Negro parents had forced them to always look for someone to take care of the children.
Their uncle, George Lee was given this responsibility. One day as they were at home with their uncle, his stupidity was seen as he tried to burn up the house while the children were inside. He did not like to stay at home looking after the children. The parents from the farm came running very fast so as to rescue their children. Their lives were always characterized by drama (Moody 7).
When the three children went to school, Essie Mae who later changed her name to Annie Moody after her birth certificate could not be changed; Adline and their brother Junior went without lunch to school. Their mother could not afford to buy them enough lunch. Essie Mae was nine years old when she got her first job in a white lady’s house (Moody 15).
Ann Moody’s involvement in politics began at a tender age when she was still a teenager. She was ready to pay for any price when she discovered how bad the white people despised the blacks. They were punished for very small mistakes, for instance, whistling. At this time, Ann Moody’s mother started getting worried about her daughter who was getting too much into politics.
She was putting her family to a risk of being looked after considering how those black people who were known to defend black people were brutally murdered. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was what she looked up when she became a college student (Moody 40).
Ann Moody was becoming influential and once she organized for a demonstration in her college. At all this time she was in a male dominated activity and being a woman was quite challenging for her but her focus could not let her quit. The most challenging moment was when they were in college and went for lunch in a cafeteria. The waiters refused to serve them because they were seated where the whites were supposed to sit.
Together with her colleagues, they refused to move out from their seats to be served. Tension grew and Ann Moody and her colleagues were suddenly surrounded by whites and beaten mercilessly. All their beatings were being watched by the policemen who could not rescue them from the mob.
Ann was almost giving up the fight because she felt helpless (Moody 92). She felt like all her efforts to make things better were running down the drains and she had sacrificed even her life for the sake of her people. The story ended by Ann joining another group of civil rights workers whereby they travelled to Washington DC singing songs of freedom that they were going to overcome all obstacles. Probably this gave them hope and it was better because there were more people than at the time they began (Moody 132).
Review of the book
This is a good book that describes how racism devalues human life. It is a true expression of how blacks suffered in the past doing hard work and treated like some wild animals. The vivid description of events from the beginning gives the reader a clear picture of a girl who was born in problems and in spite of her intelligence she always became a victim of circumstances. The following review brings out several issues from the story. These include poverty, racism, fighting for freedom, marital problems and the character of the narrator.
Annie Moody was very hard working and created some time to work for the whites so she could help her mother to bring up her siblings. However, the more she worked hard the more she was bullied by her schoolmates laughing at what she had carried for her lunch (Moody 15).
Poverty was the other name for Negroes. Negroes worked all day in the farms of the whites or doing domestic work for them yet all they got they could not afford any good thing. They were segregated from the whites (Moody 7).
As Ann Moody grew, she was confronted with more problems because men were beginning to notice her beauty and she had to guard it jealously. She won a queen title in her school (Moody 31). This was when she started believing in herself and also her grades were becoming better. After her excellent performance she was awarded a scholarship. Going to a school with many whites was quite challenging because of discrimination.
Fight for freedom
Negroes had to free themselves from this kind of life. They had to fight for their freedom. Firstly, they were not allowed to become policemen. The whites were also not supposed to share public facilities such as cafeterias, schools, parks and libraries with the Negroes. The whites felt themselves as superbeings who could always control the blacks (Moody 94).
As Ann moved to college, her hatred towards the whites kept on growing. Many people had been brutally murdered and it had become insecure for Negroes to move about their area. One of the black families was burned in their house. Another man’s head was slashed and other blacks were just killed mysteriously. It required courage to engage in civil rights movement (Moody 42).
The burden that Ann felt for the sake of her people was so heavy even that when her mother warned her to stop being involved in the politics, she just could not control herself but continued with what she was focused on; not caring that she was putting herself and her family at a big risk of being killed (Moody 92).
Freedom meant sacrifice. Most of the people who were ready to hold demonstrations were only the courageous ones because they knew that they could end up in jails or graves. One day when the Negroes were in a meeting organizing a demonstration they were found out by cops and arrested.
Reverend King was courageous and bold and he kept on praying even after the arrest (Moody 94). When Medgar Evers was murdered, most of the people just sat in class like nothing had happened. The narrator felt sorry for her people because she thought they did not have feelings or emotions towards mistreatment of the blacks (Moody 95).
At the beginning of the story, blacks were talking to each other in the evening facing one of the white family’s house because it had electricity. The rich white man was said to be counting all the money he had made out of his business (Moody 7).
Negroes were only allowed to proceed in academics up to their eighth grade (Moody 12). This made them to become less competent in finding good jobs. When black students got involved in demonstrations fighting for their rights, they were arrested. A small mistake could make them expelled from school in state supported Negro schools (Moody 94).
Negroes were mistreated by the whites. When Essie Mae was working in her first job, she realized that the white lady made them to share milk with the cats from the same dishpans. She sold what her eight cats had left over to the Negroes (Moody 15).
Marital problems started when one of her father’s friends died living his wife as a widow. Meanwhile, Toosweet was pregnant and he started having an affair with Florence the widow, leaving his wife very frustrated. At her age she did not fully understand what was happening but she could sense that something was not right with her mother (Moody 16).
When the young one was born, her father started going out even more. The unbearable situation forced their mother and her three children to move out of the house to go and work in a far place. When the narrator reached the age of going to school she walked for four miles which made her very tired and hungry (Moody 9).
Poor upbringing of children
Toosweet had found a job as a waiter in a cafeteria leaving her children to stay alone at home. There were snakes which came to their compound making the children to stay scared all day long. One evening after work, the children explained to their mother about the snakes which she first doubted but believed because they looked very scared. That was when their mum got her brother Ed to stay with them. They felt good with Ed because he treated them well (Moody 9).
The narrator’s intelligence
The narrator, Essie Mae was very humorous in the way she observed her mother. Though her mother told her that she was eating a lot from the cafeteria, she observed her keenly and saw that her belly was growing bigger and she knew that she was going to have another baby. This time the baby belonged to another man Raymond who was a soldier. That time they had moved to a bigger house than the previous one.
Unfortunately the young child Junior set their house on fire and it burned down to ashes. Toosweet stopped working at the cafeteria and concentrated on domestic chores of a white family. This time she was able to take care of the children as she was staying at her work place (Moody 12).
The ending of the book leaves one with suspense and the author would have included what happened after the Negroes demanded for their freedom other than leaving it unfinished in that respect. The book is also important because it gives us a history which is relevant in making decisions by the government and even teaching the citizens how evil racism is. Racism does not benefit any person whether black or white but instead spreads out hatred even to the innocent children.
In conclusion, Coming of age in Mississippi is a relevant book because it educates us about racial discrimination effects. Racism brings out poverty, discrimination and denies people a chance to love and exploit their abilities. The story also reveals that blacks have good potential in terms of intelligence and ability and they deserve to be treated as humans. Though Annie Moody was brought up in a very challenging environment she made it through and stood out as one of the best students.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 2011. Print.
Anne Moody’s Autobiography “Coming of Age in Mississippi” Essay
The book, “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” is Moody’s autobiography about the life she underwent while she was growing up in the times of Jim Crow and her involvement in civil rights associations in Mississippi. The book provides a truly appealing sight at what was happening in Mississippi in the era before the formation of civil rights association.
The book also portrays uphill struggle, suffering, and insufficient opportunities which African Americans were facing and even though Moody emphasizes her life history completely on herself, people are able to distinguish the differences between her generation and the generation of her mother.
All what Moody faced while in college and work, together with observing the terror and activities of her own mother, made Moody to turn into a woman of charge with the aim of making change happen within the African American community.
In many parts, colorism can be observed beginning to appear and it was an exciting historical outlook to the subject and its several roots. Moody herself is not invulnerable from what was happening in the past, she talked about several occasions of hatred which African Americans had.
Before gradually recognizing that many people did not have opportunities in many occasions, they had to protect their work, if not their families would go hungry.
It is interesting that she was truthful in the book, putting across her personal work which she began when still young and it actually underlined the awful situations which domestic employees at times experienced. Domestic job, like the way we have encounter throughout this mission, was often the last option which everyone was interested in pursuing and the pay was unfavorable.
Besides coping with long hours, uphill struggle, and inadequate recompense, domestic aid usually had to cover their actual thoughts and education as Moody was required to. “I was sick of pretending, sick of selling my feelings for a dollar a day” (Moody 226)
Change happened gradually in Mississippi since Black generations observed political activism from two distinct viewpoints. For Elnire, her child activism’s behaviors were risky and out of step with the traditions where Blacks had endured the unkind truths of Mississippi prior to the disordered 1960s.
Moody’s mother, born in 1920s, faced the Great Depression and the appearance of Ku Klux Klan as she grew up. She was there when African Americans self-depended and have only option of taking certain jobs, which was mainly manual works or working for the whites.
They often receive minimal pay and Elnire survived her whole life in horror of whites and that horror provoked all her choices. Blacks and whites where provided with rules of conduct and death were offered to people who break the rules.
Her fear of whites was intensely ingrained within Elnire and within African Americans. Elnire was evenly demoralized by African Americans who had a lighter skin just the same as she was to whites.
Moody was born around a year before World War Two and she was extremely affected by the killings of Emmitt Till who had similar age as her during her death. The murder happened in a county which was very close to her home and it affected her deeply (Moody 5).
The impact developed into a total hatred of whites in areas close to that country and Till, before his death, had been charged, sentenced, and put to death by a white man.
Till’s sentence for breaking the rules with a white woman was a real evidence for Elnire and other African Americans to remain in their location with the whites or experience similar consequences. But for Moody, what she experienced and observed motivated the hatred she had against whites. Hatred was a huge contributor to her involvement in civil rights movement.
The relationship which had established between Moody and the son of Burke is another observation of variations in generation between people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and people who were adults at that time.
Since Moody was an excellent learner, she was employed as a teacher for Burke’s son and Moody notes that it appeared to worry Burke that African American girl was clever than her own child. The relationship between her son and Moody surprised Burke and this showed that racism existed in Burke but not within children.
It appeared that the two children were treating the world in a totally different manner than their elders. Children, whether white or black, were confused why some people should not interact with each other, regardless of their external dissimilarities.
All through the book, Moody illustrates the variations between her attitudes and her mother’s attitudes and both are ruled by two contradicting ideas derived from the experiences they had as they grew up in their different eras.
Elnire considered enthusiastically that breaking the rules which have been set by whites were both idiotic and deadly, but Moody thought that remaining within such common policies were also idiotic and deadly.
After she was admitted in Tougaloo College, she considered that if the black society could team up, they could perform what was essential to transform their futures. She believed that it would be possible due to the achievements the youths in 1960s had obtained in the Civil Rights movement.
Moody was often putting more efforts in her attempts to convince other African Americans to participate in voting, but she was actually fighting the extremely deep-rooted terror and beliefs of the generation of her mother.
Apparently, she had no knowledge that their fear was influential just as insightful as she was concerning several aspects of Moody’s life. Moody did not differentiate between fellow African Americans’ fear and what she had faced in her life.
Moody experienced great terror, a type of great fear which can weaken anybody, when Ku Klux Klan appeared searching for her one day due to her involvement in activism. Moody and her fellow blacks stayed still while hiding in bushes in the streets, away from the house where they spent time with her partners up to the time it was secure to leave and go back to the house.
Moody was employed as a scrap in a chicken plant and during this event, the book actually underlines the manner in which efforts to set up did not function. Since every person was very disheartened with very little payments or opportunities, protesting for reasonable wages and this approach did not support them.
Since there were several people who had no money and therefore opposed the strikes so that they can be paid any amount, hence discouraging those trying to fight for wages increase.
It is remarkable that Moody mentioned afterward, when discussing the civil rights movement she engaged in, concerning lack of interest of African Americans and the manner in which they were in agreement to do anything, yet Moody herself destabilized attempts of African Americans attempting to do anything before, but it actually portrayed the developments and transformations which were happening.
From the above discussion, we can conclude that African Americans faced huge racism and discrimination, mostly at their workplaces where they were paid minimal wages. Since they were earning little money, they remained in poverty and were undermined by whites.
Her mother’s generation remained in fear and intimidation and they in part passed on to Moody’s generation. It was essential for the African Americas to participate in civil rights movement so that they can get together and fights for these awful experiences.
The young generation did not see the reason why adult generation practices discrimination and racism among themselves, this was seen from the friendship which Moody and Burke’s son had. Eventually, as seen in the last session of the book, there were demonstrations, protests, organizations, and other actions which African Americans were engaging in.
We observe the efforts and adversity from African Americans and also actual degree of violence and discrimination which African Americans experienced. As stated by Moody, “Before the sit-in I had always hated the whites in Mississippi. Now I knew it was impossible for me to have sickness.
The whites had a disease, an incurable disease in its final stage” (Moody 334). Moody’s book is exiting and educative which can be recommended to everybody since it informs many things concerning the Americans’ history but also regarding the way Americans lived and about civil rights movement.
Moody, Anne. Coming of age in Mississippi. New York: Laurel, 1968. Print.
The Coming of Age in Mississippi Memoir by Anne Moody Essay
The Coming of Age in Mississippi is one of the most influential pieces in African-American literature born in the period of active fighting for civil rights, against systematic racism and segregation. It was written and printed in 1968 by Anne Moody, a Black civil rights activist, as a form of autobiography.1 The story takes place in rural Mississippi in the middle of the 20th century and talks about her life’s hardships from early childhood through school and later in her enrollment at the historically black Tougaloo College.2 The story touches on numerous issues the woman had to face as a civil rights activist, facing systemic racism from white people as well as sexist remarks from her male comrades. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the contents of the story, its main characters, and reflect on the changes that have occurred in the past 50 years.
Anne’s story begins when she is four years old, enough to be able to think and remember things that happened to her. She, her mother, father, and younger sister live in a small plantation shack. Although slavery had been abolished many years ago, the living conditions for the workers did not improve much. None of the sheds they live in has any amenities. The only house in the entire village that has electricity and plumbing is the house of the plantation owners, the Carters. This image demonstrates the inequality still existing between the black workers and their white exploiters.3
Anne describes the troubles her family went through. Due to a fire burning down their shack, difficulties with money, and other tragedies, father had left the family, forcing her mother to support the children on her own. 4 She switched over six jobs in the past six years, working as a waitress and a maid. Children are often left hungry, as the money is not enough to pay for the rent. This part of the story shows the difficulties that black single mothers had to face during that period. Being uneducated left only the simplest of jobs available, and the lack of child support forced the family to starve.5 Nevertheless, Anne excels in school, which serves to show that despite the hardships, black people are just as gifted and talented as everyone else. The people Anne works for are friendly, for the most part, except for her late employer, Mrs. Burke, who is a racist and tries to make things difficult for Anne, eventually forcing her out of a job.
In her teenage years, Anne’s life revolves around school, where she is very popular among boys, and home since mother manages to remarry to a man named Raymond. Although this marriage alleviates some of the family’s financial struggles, it also brings conflict into the new family, especially between her and Raymond’s mother. Raymond is a farmer, which exposes Anne to a plethora of problems with the black farming communities. The number of grievances towards the society, the privileged, and the white population in general boils inside of Anne, and finds an outlet in 1955, when a 14-year old boy is killed over whistling at a white woman. “I was fifteen years old when I began to hate people”6 – she recalls her feelings about the event. Anne’s desire to join the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is what distances her from her family. It pushes her towards her father and his new wife. Her greatest fear during that time was described as follows: “But now there was a new fear known to me—the fear of being killed just because I was black”. 7
Anne’s growing self-awareness goes through several stages, making her change her name as well as college, eventually enrolling in Tougaloo college, where she becomes a member of the NAACP. Her political thought transforms as well, as she bounces between violent and non-violent solutions to the issue of racism in America. She desperately fights for granting people voting rights, but in so doing, forgets about the needs and necessities of the regular people like Raymond, who is more down-to-earth and is having trouble privatizing his land. The lack of results from her actions frustrates Anne, and she reminisces if NAACP lost their way and should focus on daily problems of the black community, rather than on distant concepts of equality and voting rights. The memoir ends with her, wondering if blacks could ever achieve equality in America.
Characters of the Story
The memoir covers a myriad of characters throughout Anne’s life. This section will cover the five most prominent personalities throughout the entire story. For example, Anne Moody is the main hero of the story; the events are told from her perspective. We learn about the hardships, injustices, fears, and hopes of the black people through her eyes. She believes in black rights and wants to promote equality for the people of color, which alienates her from her family. Another character is Ann’s mother, who went through much hardship, which formed her view on life as inherently unfair. Having worked hard to achieve what she had in life, she is worried about her family’s wellbeing and does not want Anne to participate in any political activities.
Although Anne has an estranged relationship with her father, they later grow closer as she is tired of her family’s perceived cowardice. He is a flawed man but does not look down on Anne or anyone else for the shade of color of their skin. Anne’s relationship with Raymond is marred my many complications, including his romantic attraction to her. However, he serves as an essential screen to show the problems of black American farmers, whose issues were often neglected by the NAACP in favor of the “bigger picture.” Moreover, Adlyne is Anne’s sister and is very serious and down-to-earth. Initially, she is not approving of Anne’s revolutionary spirit and dismisses her desire to attend college. As time passes, however, Adlyne learns to respect her sister and understand her motives.
Reflection and Expansion
Anne’s autobiographical story presents the emotions, hardships, fears, and worries of black rights activists of her time. Her frustrations and doubts are understandable, as the enormous racial and class struggle of that time was riddled with remains of fruitless attempts to change things, both violent and non-violent. The desperation, helplessness, and frustration go through the story like a red line. She doubts if actions of the NAACP were correct, and whether or not they have lost touch with the wants and needs of the black community. These thoughts resonate well with the plight of Martin Luther King Jr. His intent was on winning rights for all black people rather than waste strength on a multitude of small battles that would eventually lose its momentum. He understood that equality of political for blacks and whites was paramount, as only then would the black community be capable of becoming a major political force and effectively defend itself and its rights.
Evans, Stephanie. Black Women in The Ivory Tower, 1850–1954: An Intellectual.
History. Boca Raton: University Press of Florida, 2008.
Hawkman, Andrea & Antonio Castro. “The Long Civil Rights Movement: Expanding Black History in the Social Studies Classroom.” Social Education, vol. 81, no. 1 (2017): 28-32.
Joseph, Peniel. The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era. New York: Taylor & Francis. 2006.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York, Dell Publishing, 1968.
- Stephanie Evans, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850–1954: An Intellectual History (Boca Raton: University Press of Florida, 2008), 47.
- Evans, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 48.
- Andrea Hawkman and Antonio Castro, “The Long Civil Rights Movement: Expanding Black History in the Social Studies Classroom,” Social Education, vol. 81, no. 1 (2017): 30.
- Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi (New York, Dell Publishing, 1968), 23.
- Joseph Peniel, The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2006), 44.
- Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi, 52.
- Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi, 64.