coming of age in mississippi




Coming of Age in Mississippi is the amazing story of Anne Moody’s unbreakable spirit and character throughout the first twenty-three years of her life. Time and time again she speaks of unthinkable odds and conditions and how she manages to keep excelling in her aspirations, yet she ends the book with a tone of hesitation, fear, and skepticism. While she continually fought the tide of society and her elders, suddenly in the end she is speaking as if it all may have been for not. It doesn’t take a literary genius nor a psychology major to figure out why. With all that was stacked against her cause, time and time again, it is easy to see why she would doubt the future of the civil rights movement in 1964 as she rode that Greyhound bus to Washington once again. The events that had occurred to her up to the point of the end of the book could clearly have disheartened anyone.
Throughout the novel Moody shows displeasure with her family and fellow black citizens for simply accepting the circumstances and the position in which they lived. Multiple times she refers to the elder blacks as brainwashed by Mr. Charlie, referring to the white plantation owners. She condemns how anytime something clearly unacceptable happens, the black community hushes itself and moves along about their business. This is evident even when she is fourteen years old and just entering high school. Upon the murder of Emmett Till, she questions why was he murdered and what was going to be done about it. Her mother responds to her questions with hostility, and this upsets her more. She wonders why she should remain quite about the incident, pretending she doesn’t know. After learning that Emmett was murdered because he got out of line with a white woman, she questions this rationale. Does that make it OK to murder him? How were his actions any different from how young white men treated black women? To ask these questions at this point in time were unthinkable to her mother and most anyone else she associated with. She was just a young black girl and should keep her concerns to herself. Moody clearly portrays herself as someone unwilling to accept society in its condition from a very early age, which obviously foreshadows her involvement in the activist’s community.
I would argue that the mentality of African-Americans to remain indifferent to circumstances and cause as little of a wake as possible is perhaps the single most important reason for Moody’s ambivalence at the end of the novel. Her entire time spent in Canton is met with little support, if not disgust, by whites as well as blacks. While the county is primarily black citizens, they still remain submissive to the white citizens in the area. This truly confuses and annoys Moody. She is looked upon with contempt by nearly all of the elder blacks, and can only seem to reach a small number of teenagers. This is when she privately realizes that if a change is to come, it has to come with the younger generations, not with the older. She again refers to the elder blacks as brainwashed and afraid to take what is theirs. The blacks in the county held nearly half the land, yet most were barely doing well enough to feed their families. She seems to initially think that the inferior thinking is only prominent in Centerville and Woodville, but when she realizes that this same mentality is present in Canton as well as all other parts of Mississippi, as well as New Orleans, this is only another nail in the coffin of her dream.
Aside from the mentality with which situations were dealt with, the events that occurred to Moody were also quite devastating. The death of Medgar Evans, the leader of the NAACP, the bombing of the Sunday school class directly after the march on Washington, the open beating of McKinley during the demonstration in Canton are only a few events which caused her to question what it was all worth. After all the pain and sacrifice she had given to try and get blacks to vote during the Freedom Vote, only 80,000 of 400,000 had turned out to vote.