Identify Moody’s thesis. Why did she write this book? What does she hope to accomplish in writing Coming of Age in Mississippi? Is she successful?
Coming of Age in Mississippi is a chronicle by Anne Moody about growing up as an African-American woman, in the rural area of Mississippi, during the mid twentienth century. The memoir tells about her life from childhood, through her mid-twenties, as well as her taking part in the Civil Right Movement which started when she was a college student. Her autobiography explains her strive against racism among the whites and also sexism among her fellow activists. She wants to portray the struggles of growing up surrounded by racism and the hardships involved in fighting it. In writing her book, Anne hopes to encourage and inspire any individual hoping to make a change in the society. She believed that some people were born having everything but others would have to struggle to earn a living. She hoped to show the world including her mother that change is inevitable and can be achieved with the existence of a well-laid plan and strong will.
- (A) How does her introduction to her relatives Walter and Sam affect Moody’s understanding of what “race” meant? What does she learn about the social significance of race over time within her own family (biological family as well as her step family, i.e. Raymond’s family)? Further, how does Ann feel about her own race over time? Give specific evidence directly from the book.
Anne Moody’s story is written in four sections; her childhood, high school, college and her involvement in human rights movement. At her early age after her parent’s separation, her mother took up jobs as house help in the white people’s residents. Anne hadn’t noticed how privileged the white are the blacks until one day her mother brought food for her and the siblings. “Sometimes Mama would bring us the white family’s leftover. It was the best food I had ever eaten. That is when I discovered that white folks ate better than us” (Moody, 29). She was indeed a bright child, and at an early age the question of what makes a person white or black bugged her.
Anne’s political arousal came about in her teenage period. By this time, she had more understanding of the South race. It is during this period in her first year in high school that a young boy was murdered for supposedly whistling at a white man suggestively. This was a political turning point for Moody. She got an eye opener, just how far the whites in Mississippi would go to protect their own and how they demeaned the blacks, calling them savages. Over time she learned how much her race was discriminated when she was working for a white family who would put any blame on her and who continuously planned to kill all the blacks (Moody, 34). Her understanding of the position of the blacks in this region continued when her white employer ripped her off her salary and when a co-worker betrayal cost her job.
- (B) How did her involvement in the NAACP and the Voter Registration Drives affect her understanding of her race? How did it affect her family? In what ways did her involvement in the Movement impact her ability/willingness to engage with her community?
Her passion for fighting for the right of the black people grew by the day. She once came across the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People”) on asking her mother what that was; she was reprimanded and cautioned to never for mention that in the presence of any white person (Edward, 348). But this only increased her curiosity. It is while still in high school, that she met Mrs. Rice who not only shed some light on the murder of the fourteen-year-old boy during her first year but also explained what the NAACP was. Anne got a job as a waitress and saved some money for college where she went and joined the NAACP.
While in college, Moody would organize small groups to fight for their rights when they felt oppressed. Some college students were jailed for holding demonstrations, and after some time, Anne quit the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and at that time, the secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came up to her with a request for her assistance in voter registration (Moody, 250). Anne suffered another Frightening encounter when on a shopping spree with a friend, and went to white’s only section and a mob gathers and threatened to be violent. The struggle for justice went on when she and her friends would sit at Woolworth’s for lunch, but nobody attended to them. They continued to wait until they were beaten, roughed up and dragged out of the building (Moody, 266). She later realized that a bunch of white police officers had been there watching this whole ordeal but did nothing about it. She continued to understand how stereotyped the whites were about the blacks.
- Lastly, how has reading Coming of Age enhanced or affected your understanding of race relations and the Civil Rights Movement itself? What insight did it give on the struggles and difficulties of fighting this war of equality within the black community as well as in the larger American Community?
When Anne joined the civil rights movement, she faced opposition from the family, telling her not to be like every Dick and Harry who is joining the movement. However, her eyes were on a bigger picture of justice, and this caused a rift between and the family. The Civil Rights Movement required determined people, who would not be shaken by all the opposition they were facing. In fact, the deaths, oppression and social segregation only made Anne more determined to make Mississippi a better place.
Anne suffered unimaginable hardships through her life, ranging from family dissertation and physical beating to verbal abuse. The type of challenges that would see some people fear for their lives but Moody it was not the case. In any case, this made her and her fellow activists stronger. The movement was more powerful and subdued the opposition. Racism calls for Civil Rights Movements. Any time individuals are oppressed, discriminated or even killed, they are bound to reiterate (Morris, 35). However, the war of inequality between the whites and the black is a very challenging one because the whites are privileged, with access to more resources and social amenities and would do anything to protect their own.
Edward M. “Coming of Age in Mississippi.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 2. Jan 05 1969. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2016
Moody Anne. Coming of age in Mississippi. Kiel, WI: Delta, 1968.
Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the civil rights movement. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986