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Coming of Age in Mississippi Essay


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Coming of Age in Mississippi

Question 1

Born in Mississippi, 15th September 1940, Anne Moody is an American civil rights activist who wrote the Coming of Age in Mississippi published in 1968. The publication is Moody’s autobiography that offers an account of her struggles in personal and political life. The autograph investigates the racism that Moody experienced as a child and the sexism she attempted to overcome from her male counterparts. Coming of Age in Mississippi explores racism, southern culture, sexual orientation, activism and Moody’s efforts to make social change.

Question 2

Born in rural Mississippi, her family were sharecroppers on a plantation owned by whites. When her parents separated, her mother had to take care of the family as a single parent. Anne Moody’s autobiography paints a picture of racial prejudice and the difficulties that black families faced while living in Mississippi delta. The racial inequalities were prevalent between 1950 and ’60s.  Anne’s mother worked on odd jobs to provide for her family and would earn a weekly wage of between five and twelve dollars.

Consequently, she depended on leftovers from work for feeding her family and sometimes they would eat beans and bread. Her mother struggled to feed the family and Moody began working at the age of 9 to help her in supporting the family while still going to school. Although Moody noted the differences between the whites and blacks, her mother would not comment about it. The differences become clear to her when Emmett a 14-year black boy is murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman and heard her employer talking about putting the blacks to their place (Moody, 2011). She also witnesses a whole family die in a fire incident set up by Klansmen.  During her childhood, the whites would argue publicly of genetic inferiority of the whites. She also remembers when, as a young girl, when her white peers would undress so that she would scrutinize their genitalia for a stroke of better luck in life.

Moody is frustrated that the blacks were unwilling to change their situation collaboratively. Throughout her book, Moody is troubled of how the blacks were comfortable with injustices and in some cases, the blacks would perpetuate racial inequalities, yet it was affecting them. She is also shocked by light-skinned blacks who would distinguish themselves from the dark-skinned, yet they were all oppressed. While in senior high school, Anne attends part-time jobs in white families. Most of her employers are good one encourages her to study and would invite her to eat in their table. However, one employer Mrs Burke was a nasty racist making her life difficult. She’s not happy when Anne gets close to her son and accuses Anne’s brother of stealing, making her quit the job (Moody, 2011). Despite the hardships, Anne finishes high school with good grades and earns a basketball scholarship to attend Nathez college. Afterwards, she joins Tougaloo college through and academic award. While in college, she joins the civil rights movement for people who wanted to make a difference in the State and to change prejudice on the people of colour. Anne also deliberated on joining the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Her roommate in college encouraged her to join, and she did. Her mother protests her membership to the movements. Nevertheless, she is active in the civic group despite her family pleading with her to quit.

Question 3

Moody presents a comprehensive description of the contribution of young African American women in the civil rights movement in the Mississippi Delta. Explicitly, black women portrayed a degree of heroism parallel to that of men through their endurance of the loss of employment, physical abuse, threats to their lives, and destruction of property. Therefore, while black women and their role in the civil rights movement typically received minimal attention as scholars tend to focus either on specific organizations or the male leaders of the revolution, Moody’s account diverges from the conventional confines of traditional gender roles.

The narrative illustrates women’s willingness to traverse racial boundaries. For instance, Moody intentionally decided to use an entrance reserved for white people, which resulted in mob action that could have resulted in her death or serious injury. She asserts that the threat of death for a female activist is real and similar to that of male counterparts. Her active participation in civil rights movements culminated in rejection from black men, which denotes the lack of racial identity among the activists due to the ingrained expectations on gender roles. Notably, Moody’s actions reflect the potential for people to use their experiences and collective racial history to contribute to social change in society by stepping outside the socially defined gender roles.

Some of the most important women in this movement include SCLC’s executive director, Ella Baker, who provided the necessary resources to grow the organization and motivate young female activists to be independent of their elders. Eleanor Roosevelt was influential in Moody’s activities through her dedication to civil rights movements that worked towards ending segregation (Moody, 2011). Ultimately, she shaped Moody’s outlook on aspects such as the definition of the term communists. Another prominent figure is Mrs Chinn, a surrogate mother of sorts who repeatedly affirms Moody’s beliefs, values, and commitment to the cause.

Question 4

Moody witnessed numerous historical happenings in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s. She primarily considered these events as depictions of grave injustices that should be avoided at all costs. She rebuked her generation and members of her race for their failure to recognize the gravity of such occasions. Regarding the death of Medgar Evers, for instance, Moody openly condemned some black students, terming it as a shame for them to continue studying, oblivious of Evers’ murder (Moody, 2011). She uses such events to question the prevailing stereotypes of African Americans as lazy, promiscuous, aggressive, and violent by portraying the racism inherent in such descriptions. This racism is evident in the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group that targeted African Americans within the region (Moody, 2011). Concerning the murder of Emmet Till and other black men, whose bodies were found riddled with bullets in rivers and other areas, probably killed by the Ku Klux Klan, Moody becomes aware of the racial differences between the whites and the blacks. Other than drawing national attention to these crimes, Moody uses these events to cement to the vital role of black civil rights activists in inspiring and drafting young students into the movement. She used the happenings to emphasize the need for other African Americans to become active participants in the struggle for social change.

Question 5

The book is an exciting read. The first-hand accounts of a young woman growing in the Mississippi Delta portray Ms Moody as a great woman. She loved her people and was going to do anything to fight racial oppression despite her family pleas to stop joining the banned movements. Readers, and especially African Americans, owe her gratitude for fighting for their rights. It is sad to see how black people died, yet the killers went unpunished since the blacks did not have human rights. She suffered to ensure African Americans would walk on the streets freely, had the right to vote and do not die just because of their skin colour. Anne Moody is a brilliant writer with exceptional work ethics. It is an excellent book for understanding the struggles of living in the south before the adoption of civil rights movements. The book is commendable to anyone with a passion for history and a deep understanding of blacks under whites’ oppression. Finally, unlike most scholars, who focus primarily on male activists and their roles in the civil rights movement, Moody takes a unique angle by considering the impact of female activists.


Moody, A. (2011). Coming of age in Mississippi. Bantam Dell.

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