Anne Moody- ‘Coming of Age in Mississippi’

Ann Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi is an Autobiography that covers
the author’s life since her formative years to her youthful age. Being
an African American, Moody writes regarding how she grew up in rural
Mississippi during the mid twentieth century. In her late twenties when
she was studying at Tougaloo College, she joined the civil rights
movement. The memoir details Moody’s fight against sexism amongst her
associates in the civil rights movement as well as racism amongst the
white population. The authors’ purpose in writing the autobiography
was to show how individuals are prejudiced against because of their skin
color. She reveals the extent of racism in Mississippi. This paper seeks
to discuss Moody’s changing perception of white people as well as
African Americans, both dark and light skinned. In addition, a
discussion of how the divisions within the black communities in the
South affected Moody as well as other community members has been
During her childhood years, Moody was beaten senselessly by her parents
and this was caused by failure to obey their rules. In spite of this,
her parents were hardly capable of feeding and clothing their children.
This makes Moody to start working as a domestic employee for whites at a
tender age of only nine. Through this, she assisted in feeding her
siblings especially after they were abandoned by her father.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Moody’s reminiscence of initial
premeditated steps of resisting the southern racial codes is portrayed.
After joining high school, Moody witnesses all kinds of racism. Whites
are believed to be superior over the blacks, and the latter are made to
undergo all kinds of punishments, a move that is aimed at perhaps
showing just how inferior they are. For instance, during her initial
high school year, Moody witnessed a black boy (Emmett Till) aged
fourteen who had visited Mississippi being murdered for purportedly
shrieking at a white woman. The boy’s assassination acts as a
significant moment in the political education and life of the author.
This act makes Moody apprehend that the whites could do anything in
order to safeguard their lifestyle and the unspeakable subjection of the
black population with the intention of challenging the subsisting
arrangements. The powerlessness of the blacks is manifested in their
trepidation. This is evidenced in different circumstances. For instance,
after asking black adults to give her information on the conditions
which resulted to the murder of the Emmett Till, she was denied and told
to be quiet. On another instance, she asked her mother what NAACP
(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) signifies
and in response, she is forbidden from uttering the phrase in the
presence of a white individual. These situations indicate how blacks
are in apprehension of the whites and feel that they are helpless.
The assassination of Emmett Till made Moody comprehend that being black
put her at a high risk of being killed. At the age of fifteen, the
author could not hide her hatred both towards the whites and the
Negroes. She blamed the latter for failing to stand up for their rights.
She viewed the Negroes as cowards for the reason that they behaved
extremely docile towards the whites. Moody illustrates the outrageous
racial apprehension in the society, which involves affairs between black
men and white women, whilst the white men carry on with young black
girls. Such affairs between blacks and whites resulted to serious
punishment including murder. In addition, black men are assassinated
whilst others are beaten after they are purportedly alleged or indicted
of duping around. For Moody, if blacks stood up for themselves, they
would probably be treated well by their fellow whites, as there was not
difference between the two. After learning about NAACP and how people
were murdered as a result of their involvement with the association,
Moody was extremely furious. In response, she desired to protest through
war and hoped to do anything and see to it that all white persons she
came across were murdered.
Racism in Mississippi is also evidence in bus depots. This is confirmed
when Moody together with her fellow student went for a shopping Trip in
Jackson. The young women decide to overcome racism by going into the
section of the bus depot labeled ‘whites only’. This move shocked
all the whites who were in the waiting spot. Sooner had the young women
settled in the section than they were surrounded by an ominous white
crowd who threatened violence and wanted to assault them. Luckily, they
were rescued by a black minister. This move made Moody wonder why they
were discriminated against, resulting in her increased hatred and
distrust towards the whites.
Moody’s changing perception of white people is also evidenced while
she was taking part in a sit-in in Jackson. She was accompanied by her
fellow civil rights activists among whom two were whites. At a lunch
counter at Woolworths, the four activists were as expected denied any
kind of service, but they went on sitting and waiting. However, they did
not wait for a long time before a multitude comprised of white students
surrounded and jeered at them. The taunting became physical and Moody
together with her companions were kicked, beaten, and pulled out by hair
(266). Besides, all of them were smeared with pies, mustard, ketchup,
and sugar among other things that were available at the counter (266).
The physical abuse went on for approximately three hours after which the
activists were rescued. What shocked Moody was that whilst all the abuse
was taking place, roughly ninety white police men were standing outside
Woolworths watching the scene via the windows nevertheless they did
nothing to assist (267). Through this experience, Moody was able to
comprehend just how ‘sick Mississippi whites’ were and how this
sickness would make them to exterminate with an aim of preserving “the
segregated Southern way of life” (267).
In a nutshell, Moody does not comprehend the reasons as to why whites
are discriminating against blacks, and why the former are deemed
superior. At one time, she initiates a “doctor’s” game with the
intention of seeing naked white children. This could help her know
whether they are actually dissimilar from blacks. According to her,
whites are not superior in any way. Moody was however surprised as
blacks classified themselves by color, which also determined their
social status. Dark skinned Negroes were seen inferior as compared to
light skinned Negroes, and the latter understood how their lighter color
was important as it gave them a status in their community. Moody grew to
detest and mistrust whites, and was biased against lighter colored
Negroes as she observed that they were given special treatment. Her skin
color almost dissuaded her from joining the college for the reason that
she believed she was too black and the lighter color students would
judge her.
Work Cited
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. London: Random House
Publishing Group, 2011. Print.