Coming of Age in Mississippi was an excellent autobiography about the unforgettable personnel story of a remarkable young woman named Anne Moody. In this story, Anne details the sights, smells and suffering growing up in a racist society and the daily risks she encountered to challenge it. This was an extremely accurate portrait of black family life in the rural south and inspirational account of a young girl becoming a woman right in front of the reader’s eyes. This book explains how it was to grow up black in Mississippi in the forties and fifties and to have survived with pride and courage intact.
Throughout the book Anne discusses the challenges that African Americans in the south had to deal with on a daily basis. The challenges which faced the black community affected them in terms of economic prosperity, affordable housing and the lack of nutrition. Economically it was hard for African Americans in Centerville and all of Mississippi for that matter to get ahead and live comfortable lives. Anne throughout the book had numerous jobs as a domestic house cleaner, a waitress, an assembly worker at a chicken factory, a field hand, a civil rights activist and a few more to add as well. Her employment status was like a revolving door changing multiple times throughout the book. Anne was not the only African American affected by this pattern; she followed in her mother’s footsteps when it came to multiple jobs.
Her mothers 2nd husband Raymond was employed through the government, since he was enlisted in one of the branches of the military throughout the book. Some of the more successful Negros in the book owned their own cafes and were supported by the black community. Just as employment was ever so changing for Anne so was the housing situation. As you read the book it seems as if Anne and her family are outlaws running away from authorities with the given amount of places they lived. Anne lived with a countless number of relatives, Anne stayed in multiple houses, but none of them felt like home for her. Anne and her family stayed with wealthy white folk as well, this transpired because Anne and her mother were usually doing domestic work for the given home owner. The nicest house form a physical standpoint Anne stayed in was the one Raymond built but that house was not a home due to the fact that Raymond was a sick and frustrated individual. The smallest thing can make a house a home like a nice meal with great conversation with family and the warmth you receive form that experience.
Throughout the book Anne describes the lack of malnutrition she encountered throughout her struggle to become influential. Usually Anne’s daily meal consisted of beans and bread, the only time she encountered meat was when the wealthy white people she was working for offered her leftovers. The topic of food later in the book was a stepping stone to what was to be of Anne Moody when she boycotted the food in the college cafeteria because the grits supposedly had maggots in them. These challenges which were presented to African Americans on top of discrimination from whites accumulated into psychological effects which still exist today. One of the pieces in the book which best describes the result of mental battering is the excerpt which involves Wilbert, Emma’s sister Janie’s husband who has a loaded shotgun ready to be used for destruction. Wilbert was in a fight with Janie and Emma got involved and was accidentally shot in the foot. Emma did not feel hate towards Wilbert but blamed the white man, stating that none of this would have happened if a black man can keep a job in this town then he wouldn’t be fighting with his wife about money. Another example of discrimination affecting the psychology of African Americans in the south was the separate but equal school systems which weren’t necessarily equal. Anne always excelled in school she always had black students and teachers around her. When Anne went to college she was intimidated by the white teachers and she ended up not going to LSU because of this, she was afraid of “white teachers” who she thought had to prove a point of being a “white teacher”.
The last psychological effect I’m going to note is that of all African Americans with the right to vote. Anne mentioned in the book that the African American voters who were much older were brainwashed form years and years of neglect and were now content with what they had. Anne understood this so she targeted the youth of the African American community the ones whose minds weren’t polluted and who were willing to be open to new things such as sit-ins and picketing.
Legal examples of racism and discrimination within the bindings of this book are vast and extremely ignorant. To make blacks stay away from voting polls, states put tests at the voting station which were biased and did not favor African Americans one bit. This is why it was extremely hard for Anne to motivate fellow blacks to vote because it was pretty disheartening going to vote and being shutdown because you misspelled or misprounced something from the state constitution. Plessey vs. Ferguson states separate but equal, but that was not the case when it came to school conditions; from grade school to college conditions were harsh, this law was also evident at the movie theaters where blacks sat in the balcony and whites on the lower level. Black farmers were also mistreated, cotton was the main crop in Mississippi but for most black farmers they never had a study income. While blacks were struggling as basically sharecroppers white farmers were making a profit the state which would have usually given them grants. The last legal means of discrimination on African Americans in the south was used through the media. A big part why the movement was so difficult to attain was the unification of black civil rights groups was not there, the reason for this was the white media would make up false headlines which other African Americans would read then they would become discouraged and bail out of the movement for equal rights. Along with the legal tactics intended to keep blacks in the dark white southerners used terror to keep African Americans submissive. In keeping the African Americans hopes downs white southerners used tactics such as intimidation, murder, arsine and blacklisting. During one of the nights at the freedom house Anne and a couple of civil rights activists were trying to sleep but the flashlights and dogs from the police officers were keeping her up all night this was one of many intimidation tactics. Murder, was the case of a man who was shot with a double barrel shotgun because he was supposedly involved with the NAACP. Arsine occurred in Centerville when the Taplin’s house was burned to the ground because word around town was that a black male (Mr. Banks) was having relations with a white woman. Anne who had made quite a name for herself in the movement was always afraid of her family members being blacklisted back in Centerville. When sending letters back home Anne was extremely hesitant to reveal a detailed analysis of her plans for the movement. On the topic of lists Anne was on a list which sent a chill up her spine, the Klan’s Hit List.
While reading Coming of Age in Mississippi Anne notes many significant historical events which transpired in her quest of civil liberties for African American people. Anne who was an active member of C.O.R.E during her college years was involved in some groundbreaking protests for African Americans. Anne’s most famous act for justice was the Woolworth sit-in where Anne and a few other black protesters wanted to get served equally at a dining hall. This event was a huge success the NAACP days after started protests and issued a list of demands which included hiring of black policemen, removal of segregation signs and integration of public facilities. History as we know is not always pretty there were many ugly and tragic historical events stated in this book. Some of the whores of the racist society which existed in the rural south were evident in the Birmingham church bombings were four young black children were killed, on the topic of brutal murders on black children Emit Tills murder was also a low point in United States history. The last historic event I’m going to highlight which occurred in the text was the assassination of JFK a young and dynamic president who was dedicated to the civil rights movement. The reason why people like Anne and JFK were so motivated to make America a better place was because they witnessed complacency among all American citizens when it came to inequalities among blacks and whites. The reason Anne was so motivated to achieve something better for her when those around her weren’t was that things could really not get any worse for her she did not see a future for herself or the youth of blacks. Anne was an extremely independent individual residing all over the south and she did not rely on others to determine her destiny that’s what made her such a unique individual for her time she was a trendsetter, a revolutionist.
During my completion of reading this book I found two passages which were extremely moving. The first passage which I’m going to chronicle is from Anne’s time when she was involved in the movement. Anne was organizing a voter registration drive and if eligible African Americans voters registered they would receive a supply of clothes. The response was great and lot of voters showed and picked up clothes but know one registered, which frustrated Anne as well as myself. The thing which was lacking in my eyes during the movement was the lack of accountability among African Americans on other African Americans. The second passage I’m to comment on is also from the movement it has to do with the imitative of the given civil rights groups. During the time of the protests numerous black students were thrown in jail for rioting and bailed out of jail by given negro organizations. My question is why a student like Anne Moody who is a bright minded scholar is struggling to pay for tuition but has no problem getting money to be bailed out of jail? I don’t know all the circumstance which occurred but, I feel like education is the ultimate investment and that did not seem apparent in this given situation.
If I had read this book in 1968 I would have gotten involved in the Civil Rights Movement. One of the men I admire most in this world is Jim Brown the former Browns running back who is an icon in both the white and black community. One of Jim Brown’s selling points to the black community is his outspokenness about historical knowledge on civil rights. Brown explains to the black community that no movement in this country towards black equal rights was not possible without a white person putting their neck on the line. One of the examples Mr. Brown often brings up is Branch Rickey initiating the arrival of Jackie Robinson as the first African American major league baseball player. I believe if more white people like Branch Rickey put their neck on the line racial parody would become a reality.