A 1968 publication, Coming of Age in Mississippi was Anne Moodys only work of nonfiction. It was one of just two books she published during her life span. In undecorated, recoiling prose, it narrated her life from her premature childhood and throughout her participation in the civil rights movement as a young woman. Moodys individual evolution as a black child symbolizes the growth of the civil rights movement. In 1940, Anne Moody was born Essie May Moody (Moody, Anne, 11). Growing up in Wilkerson, a rural county marked by excessive poverty and racism, her family spent an era working on plantations until her father abandoned his family. Her mother toiled as a maid for different white families during this time, and so did Anne. This enabled her to complement her mothers meager income. As a child, she received beatings from her cousin, Lee and on regular occasions, was blamed for burning down her house. Finally, one day she was able to stand up for herself and her younger sister as her parents returned from the plantation. Anne Moody died on Feb. 5 at her home in Gloster, Mississippi at the age of 74 (Moody, Anne, 19).
Anne Moodys book is an autobiographical work that depicts life in Mississippi and the struggles her people in the southern region. Her book helps people understand what life was like in a separated South before and all through the civil rights movement. Anne talks of racism from a childhood perspective. When she joins Natchez Junior College on a basketball sponsorship, Moody becomes active in the civil rights movement (Moody, Anne, 45). Throughout the book there exists private, unreliable evidence of the specifics we have read about in other books such as Labor of Sorrow. The harsh life of plantation producers, anxiety, and stress, is evident in the family structure. The sufferings of the family and poverty are abundantly clear. Moody never thought herself as a prolific writer. She instead viewed herself as a civil rights activist (Moody, Anne, 33). Throughout her life, she has won lots of awards and honors for her literature. In 1969, Coming of Age in Mississippi was awarded the Brotherhood Award courtesy of the National Council of Christians and Jews. In the same year, it won the Best Book of the Year Award in the annual National Library Association awards. Other works of Moody that have received awards are Mr. Death and New Hopes for the Seventies.
Before she even joins a middle school, Anne gets her first job as a maid for a white woman. She brushes offs her terraces in exchange for a quarter and some milk (Moody, Anne, 47). This happens at a time when contributing to the family economy also becomes her responsibility. It is noticeable that Anne never expresses any bitterness about the need to contribute to keeping the family well fed at a young age. She does not view it as her fathers fault. To her, whatever happens happens for a reason, and shell do whatever it takes to help her familys upkeep (Moody, Anne, 61). This is the chapter of the book where we one sees through the line of her as the help. Some families that Anne works for treat her like an equal. They have her enjoy dinner with them while encouraging her to go to college. Then there is one family that is a staunch member of the guild where Anne is regularly in fear that they are going to try and set her up for a phony wrong-doing. Mrs. Burke, the head, is the nastiest racist; she is a close portrait of injustice in the book. Though Mrs. Burke eventually gives Moody grudging respect, she still disrupts majority of the black people and remains enthusiastically opposed to any form of integration. Anne depicts many instances of constant strain during this time. Her body experiences severe headaches and starts losing weight. In her mind, she feels trapped. This she says is due to being caught working for someone who you know hovers around organizing the killing of people who are of your skin color.
Toosweet, on the other hand, represents an older generation of rural blacks in the profound South. She constantly struggles to survive but is also scared of risking what little she might have to challenge the structure of discrimination. As Annes mother, she is exposed as a real and caring person with real concerns and fears. Toosweet pushes her daughter to do well in school. Her reason, however, for wanting Anne to make it is greatly motivated by her desire to demonstrate to her new husbands family that her children are not different from their daughters. Annes disappointment with her mother, in this case, is understandable. Her decision to even take the opportunity of an error on her birth certificate to alter her name from the one her mother gave her is not her fault. She does not regret doing this. Nonetheless, she recognizes the pain her mother feels. Annes separation from her family is symbolic. It represents the civil rights movements essential break with the older realities of southern blacks.
Ultimately, Anne leaves the Civil Rights Movement because she is confused about the discrimination against blacks. She could not, however, return home due to this involvement. She, therefore, moved to New Orleans to live with her aunt and try and get her old job back. Nevertheless, she didnt stay long because some terrible things happened to her family. She went back to Jackson and the Movement. As a student, I strongly advise anyone who has the time to read this book. Racism and discrimination are still in our midst, and It is not just against the blacks, but everyone.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York: Bantam Dell, 2011. Internet resource.
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