Anne Moody was civil rights activists and a renowned writer of the chef-d’oeuvre autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi. Being an African-American author, Moody chose to write about her experiences given that she was raised up in a poor black rural society in Mississippi. She embarked on civil rights activism and particularly sought to address racial discrimination against black Americans in the United States. In this outstanding autobiography, she gives an account of the trauma and suffering of living in a racist society and reveals the courage of a black girl who stood firm to counter this social evil. This essay focuses on the issue of discrimination in Anne Moody’s autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi. Racism was one of the key themes in the memoir of this famous civil rights movement activist. The paper contains summary and analysis of Coming of Age in Mississippi.
Coming of Age in Mississippi Summary
Coming of Age in Mississippi is a memoir by Anne Moody in which she told about her experiences growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1940s and 1950s. Moody, an African American woman who witnessed segregation, racism, and discrimination, covered a wide range of topics in her book. These include Moody’s experiences as a student, her involvement in the civil rights movement, and her struggles with identity and self-acceptance. It is a powerful and moving account of a young woman’s journey to adulthood in a difficult and often hostile environment.
Racial Inequality in Coming of Age in Mississippi
During Anne’s early age, the issue of racism was highly magnified in almost all aspects of interaction between the white and black Americans. In her biography, Anne appreciates that racism is part of life; however, she is concerned with the extremes of this social ill coupled with the things that people can do to maintain the status quo and superiority. In one bizarre incidence, Anne remembers her white friends stripping in front of so that she can have a look at their private parts, upon which they would allegedly meet luck in their lives. According to Anne, this act was foolish since their genitalia demonstrated nothing better off as compared to the blacks.
The only difference was that racial injustices had compelled blacks to work for the white families.1 Her family was very poor and it earned livelihood through working on the white plantations, but the situation worsened when her father abandoned them. She accompanied her mother to work as house cleaners for various white families in a bid to put food on the table. Even though this lifestyle was very painful for a young girl, Anne’s ambitions to settle for nothing rather than complete equality were increasingly growing. Anne shows that the whites in Mississippi believed so much in racial discrimination to the extent of killing mercilessly to preserve it.
As Anne grew older and her horizons widened, her good relationship with her family started to fade, just because she was different and she wanted to participate actively in ending segregation. She believed that this course would not be easily accomplished, and thus she was ready to die in the pursuit for justice.
In her tender age, Anne realized that she was a member of the so-called Black List that referred to the black race, which was a target of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The KKK is a racist movement committed to maintaining black supremacy and racial segregation across the United States. At various occasions, Anne had to hide out in the grass to avoid the wrath of the KKK members who murdered most of her friends. These graphic experiences molded Anne to grow up as a woman with an indomitable heart. At the age of nine, she got a job, which paid 75 cents after doing tedious household chores for a white woman. This mistreatment taught Anne what she had to do to overcome racial ills in Mississippi. She started to question the way the blacks were treated and she made it her duty to confront the perpetrators of racism. While in Tougaloo College, Anne recognized her ignorance on issues of racism and mobilized like-minded individuals to fight against this social evil.
Discrimination in Coming of Age in Mississippi
As Anne grew up, she realized that black people’s problems developed right within their own families and this motivated her to act differently. Anne’s mother was the first obstacle when she expressed her desire to challenge the inequality system. When blacks failed to bond towards the struggle for change, improvement became insurmountable or even unachievable. Anne was highly agitated by the fact that blacks conceded injustices and played safe by keeping off any efforts that would make the whites retaliate against them. In addition, she was astonished by the lighter-skinned blacks who perpetuated racial inequalities by associating with a social class that was distinct from that of the relative darker-skinned blacks.
Another early experience that led to her activism was the destructive nature of prejudice. The prejudice of whites against the blacks was the most evident followed by the prejudice of social class and prejudice of lighter-skinned African Americans against darker-skinned African Americans.2 Anne was unlucky since she experienced all these forms of preconceptions. Due to her family’s poor status and skin color, she nearly objected joining Tougaloo College, where she later learned of and joined the civil rights movement.
Anne Moody & Civil Rights Movement
Anne’s adulthood occurred during the late 1950s, which was also marked the birth of social justice agitation movements. During her childhood experiences, she had already realized that considering whites as superior to blacks was absurd since no evidence underscored the presupposed distinctions. In Mississippi, civil rights movements such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stood firm to respond to the prosecution of murderers of a black 14-year-old boy called Emmett Till.3 Till was apparently killed for indirectly drawing the attention of a person of different color.
At this time, Anne was more conscious of what was happening, and thus started to contemplate how segregation in her society could be defeated. Following this incident, she joined the NAACP movement to push the government to construct modern schools for black students and offer equal opportunities to black people. Anne, alongside a group of African American college students, participated in the infamous sit-in at a white-preserved restaurant in Woolworths and refused to walk out until they were served. Within a few days, more than five hundred college and high school students both black and white joined the protests.
Throughout her college life, Anne attempted protests to help blacks achieve equal rights. The slow pace of change agitated Anne and the like-minded individuals to orchestrate as many sit-ins across the United States. Anne was chosen to be the spokesperson in most of these sit-ins since she was ready to face the whites or even risk losing life in a bid to achieve racial equality.
Anne’s Feelings & Their Development
After various struggles with the white administration to make full integration and stop segregation, Anne realized that blacks were far from overcoming racism. In a bid to increase her hopes of fighting social evils, she joined the Coalition for the Organization of Racial Equality (CORE). Her activism together with others endangered her life, but she did not relent on her ambitions. After exhaustive campaigns and physical confrontations, she concluded that the movement had done very little to improve the lifestyles of people in Mississippi. The civil rights movements at the time appeared to be focused on maximizing on suffrage rights for the black community4.
On the contrary, Anne advocated economic issues that aimed at improving the living standards of the blacks such as assisting black farmers to purchase their own land. She focused on the economic independence of the black people after which social and political independence would follow. In the last section of this biography, Anne boards a bus full of volunteers who appear very jubilant and optimistic.
As they chant and hold banners written “We Shall Overcome,” she remains uncertain if the black race will ever defeat racial segregation. From this conviction, it is evident that Anne’s assertions about the movement were changing. This assertion holds partly because the movement was prioritizing issues that could wait and having experienced extreme poverty, she clearly knew what the black race needed in a bid to improve living standards. Anne reminds the reader that even when people realize their objectives, they should not relax. On the contrary, they should take such an opportunity as a platform to work harder for something better.
Anne’s powerful biography offers the readers an account of the world of the African Americans during an era when racial discrimination and prejudice occurred frequently. Before the civil rights movements were started, Southerners were proud of their heritage, but there was so much pain that Anne could not ignore. Despite her traumatizing early life experiences, she never expressed revenge or think of retreating until the black race overcame racism. All she longed for was the death of racism and prejudice towards the blacks.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi: an Autobiography. New York: Bantam Dell/Random House, 1992.
- Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi: an Autobiography (New York: Bantam Dell/Random House, 1992), 44.
- Ibid, 128.
- Ibid, 237.
- Ibid, 259.