Coming Of Age In Mississippi Summary

Anne Moody

Coming Of Age In Mississippi

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Coming Of Age In Mississippi Summary

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Coming of Age in Mississippi is a memoir by African-American author Anne Moody.Published in 1968,it covers Moody’s life from childhood through her mid-twenties, detailing life in the pre-Civil Rights Movement South, as well as Moody’s time at Tougaloo College and her growing involvement in civil rights activism. The book explores in detail the racism Moody faced as a child, as well as the sexism she struggled to overcome among her fellow, mostly male, activists. Coming of Age in Mississippi explores themes of race, gender, southern culture, activism, and the power of one person to create great social change. It has been widely praised, considered one of the best memoirs of the Civil Rights Movement. It won awards from the National Library Association and the National Council of Christians and Jews, and is still used widely as assigned reading on African-American studies.

Coming of Age in Mississippi is divided into four parts, starting with “Childhood.” Moody tells of her early life on the plantation, where she lives with her mother,Toosweet, and her father,Diddly, both sharecroppers. She has two younger siblings, Adline and Jr. However, while her mother is pregnant with Jr., her father has an affair, and her parents split up soon afterwards. Moody moves with her mother and siblings to live in town with her great aunt, and begins school. She first starts thinking about race when she meets her two white-passing uncles. Moody’s mother begins seeing a man named Raymond, whom she marries and has five more kids. Moody gets her first job when she is nine, earning seventy-five cents and two gallons of milk a week for sweeping a porch. She develops a rivalry with Raymond’s little sister, Darlene, who is in her class in school and is very competitive. She attends church regularly, although she resents her mother for making her attend her church rather than Raymond’s more joyous one. She begins to take on more responsibility for the family, even changing her name when she finds out an error on her birth certificate would take money to fix.

In the second section, “High SchooI,” Anne starts becoming more politically active. She develops a new understanding of race in the south, something that is kicked into high gear with the murder of Emmett Till, supposedly for whistling at a white woman. His death becomes a defining moment for Moody. Her mother tells her that an evil spirit killed Till, but Moody realizes just how far white people in Mississippi will go to protect their way of life, and how powerless black people are. She asks her mother about the NAACP, but her mother warns her never to speak those letters in front of a white person and to be very careful. She soon finds that there is one person in her life who can give her the answers she seeks — her homeroom teacher, Mrs. Rice. From Mrs. Rice, Moody gets a wide view of race relations in the South, leading to her later role as a civil rights activist. Moody says that this is when she began to hate white people. She chooses to move to Baton Rouge that summer, and there she experiences hard lessons, such as being ripped off by a white family who refuses to pay her for two weeks of work. She works for a white woman named Mrs. Burke, whom she finds difficult, but quits after Mrs. Burke wrongfully accuses her younger brother of a crime. She later works as a waitress to pay for college, and moves to New Orleans after graduating.

Part three, “College,” shows Moody’s increasing involvement in politics. She receives a basketball scholarship to Natchez Junior College, but she finds it a restrictive environment. Her second year, she organizes a boycott of the campus cafeteria due to unhygienic and poor-quality food. This is where she learns the tactics of boycotts. At the end of her second year, she receives an academic scholarship to Tougaloo College. There, her roommate, Trotter, encourages her to join the NAACP, and she becomes deeply involved in the movement, causing her grades to suffer. She befriends Joan Trumpauer, who will grow up to be the famous white civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, and they work on registering students to vote. In Jackson, Mississippi, she and her friend, Rose, have a close call when they decide to disobey segregation and enter the white area of a bus depot. They are surrounded by a white mob threatening violence and chased out.

The final part of the book, “The Movement,” details Moody’s growth into a full-fledged activist in the civil rights movement. She is a participant at the famous Woolworth’s sit-in, where she and her fellow activists are assaulted by white students, while the police watch and do nothing. They are eventually rescued by Dr. Beittel, the president of Tougaloo. This helps her understand just how deep the racism in Mississippi goes, and how far the white people will go to preserve their way of life. She works for the activist group CORE, and becomes deeply frustrated and angry that change is so slow to come. She resents how many black people will not commit to the movement in the way she has. She describes being terrified when she is placed on the Klan’s list of targets. The book ends with her commenting on the assassinations of Medgar Evers and John F. Kennedy, and describing her trip to Washington DC for a civil rights march.

Anne Moody, born Essie Mae Moody, was an American author and civil rights activist involved in the NAACP, CORE, and SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement. She wrote books about her life, her autobiography, and a collection of short stories titled Mr. Death: Four Stories released in 1975. A second memoir titled Farewell to Too Sweet was written but never published.