The middle of the twentieth century was replete with both remarkable and notorious events, as well as diverse social movements, which have a complex long-term effect on American society. In particular, the mid-20th’s life and related events resonated in many people’s hearts, including ordinary and influential persons, who engraved their impressions and memories in interesting literature. This paper aims to provide an in-depth summary of Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody, an analysis of its historical contexts, and a reflection on the author’s experiences.
Coming of Age in Mississippi, narrated from Anne Moody’s first-person perspective, relates the author’s life between four and 23, which fell upon the active phase of the American civil rights movement. According to Part one, Anne Moody, whose birth name is Essie Mae Moody, resides with her mother and younger siblings in Mississippi’s plantation in the 1940s (Moody 3). The father abandoned the family when Anne was young, and her mother is engaged in a row of underpaid housekeeping jobs typically available for black females. In childhood, she also has to test the flavor of hard work, combining it with study and attending church. Moreover, in this period, Anne becomes interested in why white people have much more privileges and first experiences racism. Her name was changed because of a tangle on her birth certificate.
In the second Part High School, Moody’s political awakening starts when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, is murdered, and nobody among residents revolts against racist assaults. During the summer, while working in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she first determines to stand against a racist employer Mrs. Burke who wrongfully accused Jr. When Moody, her younger brother (Moody 167). However, after another racially motivated murder and after a fierce quarrel with Raymond, the mother’s second husband, Anne decides to leave the town and live with her father and stepmother to enter Natchez College.
The third chapter unfolds Moody’s incremental engagement in political activism. At Natchez, she gains the first experience of organizing a group of activists when she leads a successful boycott of the campus cafeteria. Then before finishing the second year in Natchez, Anne obtains an academic scholarship to Tougaloo College. At this college, she is invited to join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), despite the evident threat for her and her family since many activists were jailed after rallies (Moody 286). Nevertheless, Moody begins putting significant effort into organizing demonstrations, which even deteriorates her college performance. The most severe trial for her commitment to activism is when she, together with her fellow student Rose, decides to sit on the “Whites Only” section of the bus station where people start behaving violently.
The final part reveals Moody’s determined actions in the fight for civil rights for the blacks. She is actively involved in a sit-down strike at Woolworth’s lunch counter and incurs the danger of being beaten by cruel white individuals. Nevertheless, Moody continues sparing no effort in activism, holding rallies and being a genuine leader of the movement. As a result, Anne goes to jail several times, becomes an outcast among ordinary people, and even enters the Klan list. She also manages to attend Medgar Evers’s funeral and listen to Martin Luther King’s outstanding speech in Washington. This section is also valuable because it contains Moody’s comments on President John Kennedy’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement and recollections of fierce social turmoil and brutal crimes in the South. The last chapter ends with that Anne and civil rights workers ride the bus heading to Washington and sing the Movement’s anthem.
Anne Moody’s autobiography is a prominent piece of literature offering readers to comprehensively consider the core springs and reasons that aroused the Civil Rights Movement. The author manages to covey the social and emotional climate of the mid-20th century and experiences of most blacks, especially those who actively fought for justice and equality. It contains trustworthy chronicle details of the main personal and national-scale events expounded in a matter-of-factly manner.
Indeed, the 1950s and 1960s were marked by various significant social phenomena, events, disturbances, and changes. In the 1950s, the onset of the Cold War, rock-n-roll, and increasing consumption are accompanied by the daybreak of the surging inequality gap and the Civil Rights movements. These movements were stipulated by the strong desire to bestow all Black Americans equal rights under US law. Activists rose against prevailing segregation, discrimination, prejudice, racism, and altogether violence. In this time, many courageous persons, including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and many others, forever fit into American history as heroes. Civil Rights Act of 1957, signed by President Eisenhower, prohibited voter fraud and protected all citizens’ voting (History.com Editors). Nevertheless, the principal achievement of that era is undoubtedly the Civil Rights Act of 1964, initiated by President John F. Kennedy and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2 (History.com Editors). This law ensured equal employment, restricted the application of voter literacy tests, and allowed federal bodies to integrate public facilities.
During the reading, the book Coming of Age in Mississippi ignited a robust emotional response in my soul and made me contemplate many critical public issues. I was engrossed in the atmosphere of that period and empathized with the author, especially her severe childish and adolescent social conditions. Moreover, Moody impressed by her feats and actions, her zeal and determination, her perseverance and commitment to activism. Her leadership spirit magnetized and inspired other people who were afraid or did not believe in positive change to fight. Moody’s example will be imprinted in my memory for a long time.
History.com Editors. Civil Rights Movement. History. 2021.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. Random House Publishing Group, 2011.