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Anne Moody’s Autobiography “Coming of Age in Mississippi” Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2020

The book, “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” is Moody’s autobiography about the life she underwent while she was growing up in the times of Jim Crow and her involvement in civil rights associations in Mississippi. The book provides a truly appealing sight at what was happening in Mississippi in the era before the formation of civil rights association.

The book also portrays uphill struggle, suffering, and insufficient opportunities which African Americans were facing and even though Moody emphasizes her life history completely on herself, people are able to distinguish the differences between her generation and the generation of her mother.

All what Moody faced while in college and work, together with observing the terror and activities of her own mother, made Moody to turn into a woman of charge with the aim of making change happen within the African American community.

In many parts, colorism can be observed beginning to appear and it was an exciting historical outlook to the subject and its several roots. Moody herself is not invulnerable from what was happening in the past, she talked about several occasions of hatred which African Americans had.

Before gradually recognizing that many people did not have opportunities in many occasions, they had to protect their work, if not their families would go hungry.

It is interesting that she was truthful in the book, putting across her personal work which she began when still young and it actually underlined the awful situations which domestic employees at times experienced. Domestic job, like the way we have encounter throughout this mission, was often the last option which everyone was interested in pursuing and the pay was unfavorable.

Besides coping with long hours, uphill struggle, and inadequate recompense, domestic aid usually had to cover their actual thoughts and education as Moody was required to. “I was sick of pretending, sick of selling my feelings for a dollar a day” (Moody 226)

Change happened gradually in Mississippi since Black generations observed political activism from two distinct viewpoints. For Elnire, her child activism’s behaviors were risky and out of step with the traditions where Blacks had endured the unkind truths of Mississippi prior to the disordered 1960s.

Moody’s mother, born in 1920s, faced the Great Depression and the appearance of Ku Klux Klan as she grew up. She was there when African Americans self-depended and have only option of taking certain jobs, which was mainly manual works or working for the whites.

They often receive minimal pay and Elnire survived her whole life in horror of whites and that horror provoked all her choices. Blacks and whites where provided with rules of conduct and death were offered to people who break the rules.

Her fear of whites was intensely ingrained within Elnire and within African Americans. Elnire was evenly demoralized by African Americans who had a lighter skin just the same as she was to whites.

Moody was born around a year before World War Two and she was extremely affected by the killings of Emmitt Till who had similar age as her during her death. The murder happened in a county which was very close to her home and it affected her deeply (Moody 5).

The impact developed into a total hatred of whites in areas close to that country and Till, before his death, had been charged, sentenced, and put to death by a white man.

Till’s sentence for breaking the rules with a white woman was a real evidence for Elnire and other African Americans to remain in their location with the whites or experience similar consequences. But for Moody, what she experienced and observed motivated the hatred she had against whites. Hatred was a huge contributor to her involvement in civil rights movement.

The relationship which had established between Moody and the son of Burke is another observation of variations in generation between people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and people who were adults at that time.

Since Moody was an excellent learner, she was employed as a teacher for Burke’s son and Moody notes that it appeared to worry Burke that African American girl was clever than her own child. The relationship between her son and Moody surprised Burke and this showed that racism existed in Burke but not within children.

It appeared that the two children were treating the world in a totally different manner than their elders. Children, whether white or black, were confused why some people should not interact with each other, regardless of their external dissimilarities.

All through the book, Moody illustrates the variations between her attitudes and her mother’s attitudes and both are ruled by two contradicting ideas derived from the experiences they had as they grew up in their different eras.

Elnire considered enthusiastically that breaking the rules which have been set by whites were both idiotic and deadly, but Moody thought that remaining within such common policies were also idiotic and deadly.

After she was admitted in Tougaloo College, she considered that if the black society could team up, they could perform what was essential to transform their futures. She believed that it would be possible due to the achievements the youths in 1960s had obtained in the Civil Rights movement.

Moody was often putting more efforts in her attempts to convince other African Americans to participate in voting, but she was actually fighting the extremely deep-rooted terror and beliefs of the generation of her mother.

Apparently, she had no knowledge that their fear was influential just as insightful as she was concerning several aspects of Moody’s life. Moody did not differentiate between fellow African Americans’ fear and what she had faced in her life.

Moody experienced great terror, a type of great fear which can weaken anybody, when Ku Klux Klan appeared searching for her one day due to her involvement in activism. Moody and her fellow blacks stayed still while hiding in bushes in the streets, away from the house where they spent time with her partners up to the time it was secure to leave and go back to the house.

Moody was employed as a scrap in a chicken plant and during this event, the book actually underlines the manner in which efforts to set up did not function. Since every person was very disheartened with very little payments or opportunities, protesting for reasonable wages and this approach did not support them.

Since there were several people who had no money and therefore opposed the strikes so that they can be paid any amount, hence discouraging those trying to fight for wages increase.

It is remarkable that Moody mentioned afterward, when discussing the civil rights movement she engaged in, concerning lack of interest of African Americans and the manner in which they were in agreement to do anything, yet Moody herself destabilized attempts of African Americans attempting to do anything before, but it actually portrayed the developments and transformations which were happening.


From the above discussion, we can conclude that African Americans faced huge racism and discrimination, mostly at their workplaces where they were paid minimal wages. Since they were earning little money, they remained in poverty and were undermined by whites.

Her mother’s generation remained in fear and intimidation and they in part passed on to Moody’s generation. It was essential for the African Americas to participate in civil rights movement so that they can get together and fights for these awful experiences.

The young generation did not see the reason why adult generation practices discrimination and racism among themselves, this was seen from the friendship which Moody and Burke’s son had. Eventually, as seen in the last session of the book, there were demonstrations, protests, organizations, and other actions which African Americans were engaging in.

We observe the efforts and adversity from African Americans and also actual degree of violence and discrimination which African Americans experienced. As stated by Moody, “Before the sit-in I had always hated the whites in Mississippi. Now I knew it was impossible for me to have sickness.

The whites had a disease, an incurable disease in its final stage” (Moody 334). Moody’s book is exiting and educative which can be recommended to everybody since it informs many things concerning the Americans’ history but also regarding the way Americans lived and about civil rights movement.

Works Cited

Moody, Anne. Coming of age in Mississippi. New York: Laurel, 1968. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Anne Moody’s Autobiography “Coming of Age in Mississippi”." July 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/coming-of-age-in-mississippi-2/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Anne Moody’s Autobiography “Coming of Age in Mississippi”'. 1 July.

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