Anne Moody Coming of Age in Mississippi
The autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody is the story of her life as a poor black girl growing into adulthood. Moody chose to start at the beginning – when she was four-years-old, the child of poor sharecroppers working for a white farmer. She overcomes obstacles such as discrimination and hunger as she struggles to survive childhood in one of the most racially discriminated states in America. In telling the story of her life, Moody shows why the civil rights movement was such a necessity and the depth of the injustices it had to correct. Moody’s autobiography depicts the battle all southern African Americans faced. She had a personal mission throughout the entire book.
Anne Moody (born Essie Mae) was a very private person, and her withheld feelings often led to mental breakdowns. Throughout her childhood she is a timid, poor little girl who is afraid to even ask her mother questions about what is going on around her. Through most of her childhood experiences she learns the social significance of race and gender on her own because her mother avoids confronting the issue because she feels society cannot be changed. The first time Anne is really confronted with the issue of racial differences is when she makes friends with some white neighbors and goes to the movies with them. When arriving at the movies she learns that she cannot sit in the regular seats with the other white children. After the movie incident I realized all of a sudden they were white, and their whiteness made them better than metheir whiteness provided them with a pass to downstairs in that nice section and my blackness sent me to the balcony. Now that I was thinking about it, their schools, homes, and streets were better than mine, a nave Moody contemplated to herself. Moody could not really respond to the situation as such a young girl, but the movie incident definitely opened up her eyes to a new outlook on life that she never saw.
Soon after Moody entered high school, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago, was killed for whistling at a white woman. After hearing about the murder, Moody realized she really did not know much about what was going on around her. Before Emmett Tills murder, I had known the fear of hunger hell and the Devil but now there was a new fear known to me the fear of being killed just because I was black. Moodys response to this was asking her high school teacher, Mrs. Rice, about Emmetts murder and the NAACP.
Moody was a very eager learner and constantly exceeded her classmates. She was an excellent student and though she far surpassed the performance of her white cousin, she was not considered to be equal, let alone superior. She did not let this affect her in any way. One word to describe Moody would be fighter, a fighter in what she believed to be fair and fighting to stand up for these beliefs. She always wanted to understand her surroundings and became very interested in the NAACP. Moody gets drawn into the fight for civil rights, knowing the challenge is incredibly difficult but knowing she has no other path to take. Unlike her mother and many African Americans, Moody was determined to fight the discrimination against blacks and become an active member of the NAACP. Her mother and other adults, as well as her peers, were too fearful to stand up for themselves and even criticized Moody for taking a stand. She did not accept the discrimination as they did. Moody was far more educated then they were and was a lot more ambitious in life. All they did was warn her of the consequences from the whites, but she let nothing stop her.
While at Tougaloo College she worked with the NAACP, CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), causing her personal involvement in the integration of Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi. Moody became very involved in the organization and thought positively of the outcomes NAACP would bring. For the first time I began to think something would be done about whites killing, beating, and misusing Negroes. I knew I was going to be a part of whatever happened, expressed Moody. She participated in sit-ins, protests, and the march in Washington. The movement soon became her life. She breathed, ate, and slept the movement and all the responsibilities she had.
Sadly, Moody feels discouraged towards the last pages of her book. She is told by a woman, we aint big enough to do it by ourselves. All the hope, all the excitement, all the comfort she had riding on the movement soon left her. When she could no longer see that anything was being accomplished by her work in the south, she left and went north. She doubted anything would be resolved and even became bitter about her life.
Race in modern America is an issue today as it was in Moodys time. Although Americans are not as violent and cruel as they were then, we still have great concerns about race. Sadly, discrimination still exists. As an Arab American, I have personally faced discrimination. Being called sand nigger in 2005 is a bit unusual to me. I feel as if we are rewinding to old habits rather than making new ones.
I have learned what race means in America by growing up in a city like Detroit.I am surrounded with such diverse people in my own neighborhood that it is not until I leave when I notice the issue of race. Many people do not see color when meeting others, but race has become more than just the color of ones skin. There is a stereotype of what you should act and look like if you belong to a certain race. Moreover, even certain races are considered better or worse than others. One day it will changeone day.