Anne Moody in her book “Coming of Age in Mississippi” covers her life from when she was four years old to when she was twenty years old. The book depicts the development of civil rights movement for a span of nineteen years. Anne Moody was born on 15th September 1940 in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. She was known as Essie May Moody. She was the first born child and as a child she attended segregated schools where she excelled throughout her school. Anne’s parents worked and lived in a white family plantation. They were poor, so they had to work most of their time to survive. Anne and her younger sister had to stay with their Uncle George and cousin during the day (Moody 5).
Anne’s parents separated because her dad gave up working in the farms and providing for the family. He wanted to spend time gambling and drinking alcohol. Her mum got a job in the city requiring Anne and her sister to move with her to the city. This was just the beginning of a long journey full of problems for Anne. Her mother got engaged to Raymond, who was a soldier. Unfortunately, Raymond and Anne did not like each other making her life even more difficult. Anne joined high school where she became an outstanding student in her grades and basketball team. Her peers liked her. They even crowned her their homecoming queen. She could not get along with her stepfather any longer forcing her to go live with her father in Woodville. Anne spent her summer vacations working to pay her education and expenses. She was receiving a salary of six dollars weekly, which was extremely low. The white woman she was working for was nasty and a racist making her life difficult after realizing that her son was getting close to her. Anne quit the job (Moody 57).
Anne went to New Orleans after graduating from high school to stay with her aunt. She started working as a waitress at the age of fifteen. Anne was later fired from the job because she was underage. In 1961, she was awarded a basketball scholarship to the Natchez Junior College. In 1964, she joined Tugaloo College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Science. She joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) while at the college. She even became a civil rights project coordinator. The organizations were forbidden as they involved demonstrations in support of equal treatment of Black Americans and whites. Anne’s family was afraid of her growing interest in these movements (Moody 104).
The CORE and NAACP mainly wanted Black Americans to get equal opportunities and treatment as the white. The movements became even more dedicated to stopping racism after an American teenager, Emmitt Till, was tortured and killed in Mississippi for flirting with a white woman. The movements engaged in a sit-in demonstration where the supporters, comprising of Black Americans, went from one restaurant to another seeking to be served together with whites. The owners of the restaurants drove them from the counters beating them. Police had to intervene rescuing the Civil Rights members from the beatings and making them move out of the restaurants. Anne was disappointed with the progress of the movements as they involved only educated black Americans leaving out those that had not gotten the chance to go to school. The movement had lost focus on fighting for the poor blacks, such as helping black farmers own land (Moody 154).
Anne wonders whether racism will ever end as she leaves the civil right movements. She worked at a restaurant in her aunt’s place in New Orleans before moving to Jackson to support CORE movement. She could not bear seeing her family and hometown suffer because of discrimination. The movement was going to see the president to call for his support and commitment to ending racial discrimination (Moody 177). Anne had first-hand experience on the need to fight for the rights of blacks. She also understood that the majority of blacks did not have the opportunity to attend school from interacting with other children in her neighborhood. Joining NAACP and CORE gave her the chance to try to improve the status of the community she came from (Moody 198).
Anne’s education prepared her to understand the rights of black Americans and to lead other black Americans to engage in the fight for their rights. She felt the effects of racial discrimination all her childhood to old age. She did not shy away from recognizing how the blacks were undermined by the whites. The growth, development, and maturity of Anne Moody symbolize the growth, development, and maturity of movements that fought and continue to fight for civil rights of blacks. The symbolism is made possible by the fact that Anne’s maturity relates very closely to the 1950s changes in the blacks civil rights, such the right to vote and not to be discriminated on the basis of skin color. It was until the early 1950s that a new civil rights movement was able to combine lawsuits with activism. The death of Emmett Till was a boost to the coming together of movements in Mississippi, especially NAACP. The assassination occurred just as Anne was starting to become aggravated with the absurd prejudices of many white people and racial discrimination among the whites and the blacks (Moody 201).
Anne suffering was indescribable starting from home and when she chose to fight for the civil rights of blacks. She managed to complete her education despite studying in segregate schools with limited facilities and suffering discrimination and poverty. Anne and her parents had to work for the white people to survive despite the widespread racial discrimination. Anne and her family had to eat bread and beans, and when lucky, they would get supplements from the middle –class whites, such as table scraps and milk or peanut butter. She was lucky to get a scholarship to college otherwise she would not have been able to go to college. She never gave up despite the many difficulties she encountered both at home and school. She joins various movements while still in school, but maintains her focus to complete her education. She knew education was vital for achieving equality and a better life (Moody 321).
Anne is over and over again discouraged by how willing blacks depicted injustice and prejudice. Anne believed that everyone, regardless of skin color should have the opportunity to be treated equally. Poverty was the order of the day for black Americans as they were underpaid, unemployed, subjected to long working hours, and unable to afford a descent living (Moody 340). Food was a mark of the powerful distinctions in status between blacks and whites. Food represented the wide gap in wealth distribution among blacks and whites. Food also indicated how dependent the blacks were on the middle-class white. Anne points out how Black American families were viewed as unable to cook or provide for themselves. Moreover, they could not prepare food that met hygienic standards because of lack of education and exposure to quality living standards (Moody 397).
Moody (401) reveals that education is the most important and powerful weapon to creating change in the world. Education helped Anne understand the problems that the Blacks faced and the best systems to end those problems. She faced many challenges but did not give up fighting for equality. She knew that equality was the main cause of the problems she went through and did not want other blacks to go through what she went through growing up. Problems facing blacks motivated Anne to seek education and continue engaging in civil rights movements as she knew that it was extremely difficult for blacks to ever overcome racism. She also wrote this book to influence and express her feelings and desire to end racial discrimination. Reading this book provides a clear view of how racial discrimination destroys the lives of those affected. Racial discrimination has the power to create problems in the society, such as poverty, child abuse, divorce, family conflicts, and immorality. It is a problem that the society needs to eliminate to make the world better for everyone.
Moody, Anne. Coming of age in Mississippi. New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1968. Print.