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Book review: Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Anne Moody

Coming of Age in Mississippi is the writer, Anne Moody’s autobiography set in her hometown of Centerville, Mississippi. The story begins when Anne is four years old and portrays her life up to the age of twenty-four at the end. The title of the book, explains what the book is about. The story is about growing up or coming of age (reaching adulthood) in Mississippi during a time of change and struggle from the 1940’s till the 1960’s, an articulate account of the often frustrating struggle of growing up black in the south.

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The main character is Essie Mae, who is actually Anne Moody herself. The story is written in the first person point of view as the author is narrating the story about her life the setting in rural Mississippi is important because it explicitly shows the hardships endured by the blacks in poverty stricken Mississippi during the 1950’s and 60’s and the racial inequality that existed in the south. For example, Essie Mae’s (who is really Anne Moody) mother had to work odd end jobs to support her family and made between five to twelve dollars a week. She could only feed her family leftovers from her job or beans and bread. Such treatment was proof of the unfairness blacks endured because of the color of their skin. The plot is mostly the internal struggle within Anne, but also deals with the conflict of the society of those times.

In the early years of Anne’s life, she was taught not to question the authority of the white population, but to do as told. She attended an all blacks school, which began her questioning of her past educational beliefs of society. She wanted to know why the blacks were treated differently. Her whole life was set with purpose- to try and change things for the better for the colored people. While growing up they moved from house to house where her mother used to work. Everyone treated her all right, except for some white people who were still prejudiced. For example, because of the color of their friend’s skins, the blacks were unable to enter the theater with their friends. Such incidents got, Moody involved with the Civil Rights Movement while in college. She also joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) to help blacks vote in the south since officials in Mississippi were against blacks registering to vote because it would increase the chances of having a black in office. Moody says, “I realized that the universal fight for human rights, dignity, justice, equality, and freedom is not and should not be just the fight of the American Negro or the Indians or the Chicanos. It's the fight of every ethnic and racial minority, every suppressed and exploited person, every one of the millions who daily suffer one or another of the indignities of the powerless and voiceless masses." (Black Writers410)

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Moody was also involved in sit-ins, and marches for the right to vote and to end racism. For example, she was involved in a sit-in where blacks couldn’t be served at an all-white counter. The Civil Rights members refused to get up from the counter unless they were served. Suddenly, white people stormed the restaurant, started abusing them by using racial slurs, throwing ketchup and mustard at them, and dragging them from the counter and beating them. The police came, dispersed the crowd and then took the Civil Rights activists out of the restaurant.

Ultimately, in the end, at twenty-four she leaves the Civil Rights Movement because she is confused about the discrimination and racism against blacks and the whites. Moody wholeheartedly wanted to understand the discrimination of the era-she also wanted the killing and raping of her fellow black friends to stop. Moody kept her head high through youthful trial and struggles of going hungry, studying in a white school and having no money. Moody becomes increasingly disgusted with America, as her hopes are repeatedly dashed by the relentless tide of racism. Murders of Medgar Evers and Kennedy and the lynching of fourteen year-old Emmet Hill play a key role in stealing away her faith in the American legal system. Everything leads up to the last line of the book; “I wonder.”

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Works Cited

Writers, Black. Gale Research Inc., 1989, 410

oody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi.Canada: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing group, 1976


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