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Literature: Coming of age in Mississippi by Anne Moody Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2020


Coming of age in Mississippi is a book written by Anne Moody. Her skilled writing leaves one with a clear picture of the hardships that the blacks went through because of racial discrimination in the United States. It also shows how as a woman she overcame challenges of male dominated society.

The blacks knew no rest and their happiness was all around hard work, poorly built houses and small salaries in contrast to their counterparts the whites who lived in well furnished houses, ate balanced diet and lived luxuriously.

To free herself and her people from slavery, Ann Moody had the urge to join civil rights when she was a teenager because she realized how much blacks were humiliated. This essay will discuss the importance of this book and show how racism had brought suffering to the blacks making them to live miserably though they worked very hard.


From the first chapter, the struggles of life in black families started from their young age. Father Diddly had married the narrator’s mother Toosweet who was known for her liveliness. She was beautiful and always sang as she walked to and from work. The narrator was almost four years old and her sister was past half a year old.

Their parents were working for very long hours from Monday to Saturday. However, they lived in abject poverty. They lived in wooden houses. Near their home was Mr. Carters’ house who the narrator‘s mother had always talked about (Moody 7).

The book captures a tough life of poverty which the Negroes lived. The busy schedule of Negro parents had forced them to always look for someone to take care of the children.

Their uncle, George Lee was given this responsibility. One day as they were at home with their uncle, his stupidity was seen as he tried to burn up the house while the children were inside. He did not like to stay at home looking after the children. The parents from the farm came running very fast so as to rescue their children. Their lives were always characterized by drama (Moody 7).

When the three children went to school, Essie Mae who later changed her name to Annie Moody after her birth certificate could not be changed; Adline and their brother Junior went without lunch to school. Their mother could not afford to buy them enough lunch. Essie Mae was nine years old when she got her first job in a white lady’s house (Moody 15).

Ann Moody’s involvement in politics began at a tender age when she was still a teenager. She was ready to pay for any price when she discovered how bad the white people despised the blacks. They were punished for very small mistakes, for instance, whistling. At this time, Ann Moody’s mother started getting worried about her daughter who was getting too much into politics.

She was putting her family to a risk of being looked after considering how those black people who were known to defend black people were brutally murdered. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was what she looked up when she became a college student (Moody 40).

Ann Moody was becoming influential and once she organized for a demonstration in her college. At all this time she was in a male dominated activity and being a woman was quite challenging for her but her focus could not let her quit. The most challenging moment was when they were in college and went for lunch in a cafeteria. The waiters refused to serve them because they were seated where the whites were supposed to sit.

Together with her colleagues, they refused to move out from their seats to be served. Tension grew and Ann Moody and her colleagues were suddenly surrounded by whites and beaten mercilessly. All their beatings were being watched by the policemen who could not rescue them from the mob.

Ann was almost giving up the fight because she felt helpless (Moody 92). She felt like all her efforts to make things better were running down the drains and she had sacrificed even her life for the sake of her people. The story ended by Ann joining another group of civil rights workers whereby they travelled to Washington DC singing songs of freedom that they were going to overcome all obstacles. Probably this gave them hope and it was better because there were more people than at the time they began (Moody 132).

Review of the book

This is a good book that describes how racism devalues human life. It is a true expression of how blacks suffered in the past doing hard work and treated like some wild animals. The vivid description of events from the beginning gives the reader a clear picture of a girl who was born in problems and in spite of her intelligence she always became a victim of circumstances. The following review brings out several issues from the story. These include poverty, racism, fighting for freedom, marital problems and the character of the narrator.


Annie Moody was very hard working and created some time to work for the whites so she could help her mother to bring up her siblings. However, the more she worked hard the more she was bullied by her schoolmates laughing at what she had carried for her lunch (Moody 15).

Poverty was the other name for Negroes. Negroes worked all day in the farms of the whites or doing domestic work for them yet all they got they could not afford any good thing. They were segregated from the whites (Moody 7).

As Ann Moody grew, she was confronted with more problems because men were beginning to notice her beauty and she had to guard it jealously. She won a queen title in her school (Moody 31). This was when she started believing in herself and also her grades were becoming better. After her excellent performance she was awarded a scholarship. Going to a school with many whites was quite challenging because of discrimination.

Fight for freedom

Negroes had to free themselves from this kind of life. They had to fight for their freedom. Firstly, they were not allowed to become policemen. The whites were also not supposed to share public facilities such as cafeterias, schools, parks and libraries with the Negroes. The whites felt themselves as superbeings who could always control the blacks (Moody 94).

As Ann moved to college, her hatred towards the whites kept on growing. Many people had been brutally murdered and it had become insecure for Negroes to move about their area. One of the black families was burned in their house. Another man’s head was slashed and other blacks were just killed mysteriously. It required courage to engage in civil rights movement (Moody 42).

The burden that Ann felt for the sake of her people was so heavy even that when her mother warned her to stop being involved in the politics, she just could not control herself but continued with what she was focused on; not caring that she was putting herself and her family at a big risk of being killed (Moody 92).

Freedom meant sacrifice. Most of the people who were ready to hold demonstrations were only the courageous ones because they knew that they could end up in jails or graves. One day when the Negroes were in a meeting organizing a demonstration they were found out by cops and arrested.

Reverend King was courageous and bold and he kept on praying even after the arrest (Moody 94). When Medgar Evers was murdered, most of the people just sat in class like nothing had happened. The narrator felt sorry for her people because she thought they did not have feelings or emotions towards mistreatment of the blacks (Moody 95).


At the beginning of the story, blacks were talking to each other in the evening facing one of the white family’s house because it had electricity. The rich white man was said to be counting all the money he had made out of his business (Moody 7).

Negroes were only allowed to proceed in academics up to their eighth grade (Moody 12). This made them to become less competent in finding good jobs. When black students got involved in demonstrations fighting for their rights, they were arrested. A small mistake could make them expelled from school in state supported Negro schools (Moody 94).

Negroes were mistreated by the whites. When Essie Mae was working in her first job, she realized that the white lady made them to share milk with the cats from the same dishpans. She sold what her eight cats had left over to the Negroes (Moody 15).


Marital problems started when one of her father’s friends died living his wife as a widow. Meanwhile, Toosweet was pregnant and he started having an affair with Florence the widow, leaving his wife very frustrated. At her age she did not fully understand what was happening but she could sense that something was not right with her mother (Moody 16).

When the young one was born, her father started going out even more. The unbearable situation forced their mother and her three children to move out of the house to go and work in a far place. When the narrator reached the age of going to school she walked for four miles which made her very tired and hungry (Moody 9).

Poor upbringing of children

Toosweet had found a job as a waiter in a cafeteria leaving her children to stay alone at home. There were snakes which came to their compound making the children to stay scared all day long. One evening after work, the children explained to their mother about the snakes which she first doubted but believed because they looked very scared. That was when their mum got her brother Ed to stay with them. They felt good with Ed because he treated them well (Moody 9).

The narrator’s intelligence

The narrator, Essie Mae was very humorous in the way she observed her mother. Though her mother told her that she was eating a lot from the cafeteria, she observed her keenly and saw that her belly was growing bigger and she knew that she was going to have another baby. This time the baby belonged to another man Raymond who was a soldier. That time they had moved to a bigger house than the previous one.

Unfortunately the young child Junior set their house on fire and it burned down to ashes. Toosweet stopped working at the cafeteria and concentrated on domestic chores of a white family. This time she was able to take care of the children as she was staying at her work place (Moody 12).

The ending of the book leaves one with suspense and the author would have included what happened after the Negroes demanded for their freedom other than leaving it unfinished in that respect. The book is also important because it gives us a history which is relevant in making decisions by the government and even teaching the citizens how evil racism is. Racism does not benefit any person whether black or white but instead spreads out hatred even to the innocent children.

In conclusion, Coming of age in Mississippi is a relevant book because it educates us about racial discrimination effects. Racism brings out poverty, discrimination and denies people a chance to love and exploit their abilities. The story also reveals that blacks have good potential in terms of intelligence and ability and they deserve to be treated as humans. Though Annie Moody was brought up in a very challenging environment she made it through and stood out as one of the best students.

Works Cited

Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 2011. Print.

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