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The early life of Anne Moody forms the basis of the book, ‘Coming of Age in Mississippi’. This book covers her life from the time she was four up to when she was twenty-four years of age. During this period of her life, she witnessed the extremes of racism between the black and white Americans in Mississippi.
Essie Mae, the main character of the book, is in real sense Anne Moody. The book records her struggles with racism in the small town, Centerville, which is in Mississippi. This essay involves a close look of the actions or rather deeds of Anne Moody in different stages of her life as expressed in the book that help in answering the question, Was Anne Moody a radical?
Anne Moody’s Childhood
Anne came from an impoverished family. She watched her parents struggle to cater for the needs of the family. They used to spend six days of the week working in a nuclear waste plant. Despite their everyday work, they were not able to fulfil the needs of their children satisfactorily. Anne was unable to watch this and just sit back. At the age of nine, Moody started working for the whites where she was able to get six dollars a week.
This helped her mother in providing for the needs of the family so that they could not feed on the same type of food everyday. This strongly showed that Anne was not comfortable with her family’s poor state and had to do something to solve the problem. She opted to work as a junior. At the age of fifteen, while living with her uncle, Anne got a job at a café in an attempt to help her mother to bring up her siblings.
Her high school life
It was during her high school education that she realised that racism between the blacks and whites had really taken roots in their society. This was after she witnessed the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy, Emmet Till. The whites killed Emmet for allegedly winking at a white woman. At that time, Anne had many questions regarding the death of the boy but she could not easily find their answers. This is because many blacks were afraid of talking against the whites.
This is evident in the instance where her own mother could not tell her anything about the boy’s murder. She also refused to tell her the meaning of NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People). Fortunately, Mrs. Rice was able to tell her the whole truth including the relationship between the whites and blacks in South America at that time. This triggered Anne’s desire to know more about the NAACP movement.
In this incident, Moody demonstrated her discomfort about the social state between the whites and the blacks. Her curiosity to know more about the death of the boy and the meaning of radical portrays her as a potential radical person. However, the book does not show any efforts of Moody trying to rescue the boy from the murder. In her college life, she revealed more of her desire to change the social situation of the people of Mississippi.
Anne Moody went to Natchez College. It was during her second year that she was able to go against the rules and regulations of an already established institution. Moody helped to organize a boycott of the campus cafeteria after a student found a maggot in her plate during one of the meals.
In another occasion during her college life, Moody together with a fellow student decided to go into the “Whites Only” section of the railways bus depot. This acted as a way of sending a message to the whites that it was time for them to put to an end to their social segregation since all people require the same treatment irrespective of their skin colour.
By going to the “whites only” section, Moody demonstrated her courage to bring equality to the two races. The single antiracism act that she did not plan or even get support from black masses clearly presented Moody as a radical person who was ready to bring a social change to the society. Though the people that gathered around them at the railways bus depot threatened violence to the two women, this did not stop Moody’s antiracism deeds.
After the experiencing the cruelty of the whites to the blacks in Mississippi, Moody’s determination to fight for freedom from racism increased tremendously. Moody became a staunch member of the civil rights movement. In one occasion, Moody accompanied by three other civil right workers went to Woolworth’s lunch counter. After they took their seats, no one served them. Later on, high school students harassed the four.
Moody posits, “They smeared them with ketchup, mustard, sugar, pies and everything on the counter… The abuse continued for almost three hours until Dr. Beittel, the president of Tougaloo College who arrived after receiving information about the violence, rescued them” (1998, p.226).
The book records that ninety white police officers stood and watched the ordeal that lasted for almost three hours. To some extend this killed Moody’s morale to bring change to the social situation in Mississippi. This experience helped Moody “understand how sick Mississippi whites were and how incurable their disease was which could prompt them even to kill to preserve the segregated Southern way of life” (1998, p.267).
In this case, Moody thought that racism was incurable which portrayed her as one who had started loosing hope in the reforms that she wanted to bring to the society. Owing to this, Moody is not fully radical because her thoughts did not rhyme with her actions. As the story closes, Moody boards a bus ferrying civil rights activists on their way to Washington D.C.; surprisingly, Moody did not participate in the singing of the civil rights movement’s anthem (Moody, 1998, p.384).
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Moody’s failure to join in singing the anthem of the other civil right movement is a sign of loss of interest in the fight against racism which is evident in the last two sentences of the autobiography, ‘‘I WONDER. I really WONDER’’ (Moody, 1998, p.384). Moody’s passion to fight against racism had died down and she was wondering if it would ever succeed.
Moody was not able to bring freedom to the blacks in Mississippi. Nevertheless, she was able to set a good example to those who wanted the vice to end not only in Mississippi but also to the rest of the world. Moody was a young black who pioneered the fight against racism but she did not bring the change she wanted to the Mississippi community. This is the reason as to why one might think of Anne Moody as being radical and not so radical.
Moody, A. (1968). Coming Of Age in Mississippi. New York: Dial Press.