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Anne Moody Essay, Research Paper


America of the 1960s was a social and ideological

battleground. It was fighting an idelogical war in southeast

Asia, while at home it was battling civil rights conflicts

which had been simmering just beneath the surface for over a

hundred years. In what could only be explained as historical

irony, the U.S. military was fighting for human rights for

the South Vietnamese while denying civil rights to its

citizens whose only “crime” was that their skin was black.

The civil rights movement not only defined America, but also

the lives of the black men and women who had long known

oppression, and were frutrated by the feeble attempts to

combat it. Anne Moody’s autobiography, Coming of Age in

Mississippi, explored the impact of the civil rights

movement on her life and perspective. We can find three

events in Moody’s as turning points in her life; her high-

school days, her college experiences, and finally, the

movement itself.

As Moody recalled her childhood, she acknowledged that

from a very early age, racism wasn’t just something to read

about in newspapers. In Mississippi, it was like an

insidious cancer from which there was no escape. Even as a

child, although she lacked the intellectual comprehension of

prejudice, she knew that she was treated differently from

other children. She wondered why the white families had such

modern conveniences as indoor toilets, while her family and

those like them were denied such things. What was their

secret? Moody was an acaemic scholar who had received a

college scholarship, much to the delight of her parents, but

she always knew she would never be like everybody else. Her

family were proud, working-class people who attempted to

assimilate into the American mainstream, but racism made

Moody angry and eager to fight. This left her increasingly

alienated from family members who did not understand why she

had to engage in public protest or volunteer her services to

ensure the voting rights of black citizens.

Mississippi had long the sight of vigilante style

justice, where black men were executed by a white judge and

jury, without the opportunity to speak out in their own

defense. When a 14-year-old visitor from Chicago named

Emmitt Till had been hanged for allegedly whistling at an

attractive white woman, Anne Moody could remain silent no

longer. She was infuriated by her fellow African Americans’

reluctance to decry such injustice. Moody became a visible

and vocal supporter of the civil rights movement, to the

extent that her name was prominently featured on the Ku Klux

Klan’s notorious “black” list. One night, she was even

forced to spend the night outdoors, hiding from the wrath of

the KKK like a hunted animal.

Anne Moody’s recollections of growing up in

Mississippi’s tumultuous social climate pulls no punches. It

is a no-nonsense memoir in everyday language which is easily

understood by everyone, regardless of educational

background. Moody’s youthful idealism embraces the civil-

rights movement wholeheartedly. But eventually, she begins

to doubt the potency of the movement and its nonviolent

spokesman, Martin Luther King, Jr. Two factions began to

emerge within the movement itself, the pacifistic position

advocated by King and his followers, and the more militant

stance of Malcolm X. Moody has the courage to wonder aloud,

can the civil rights movement be ultimately successful

without violence, or is civil disobedience akin to doing

nothing? When your fellow man is being clubbed in the

streets or hung in the trees, is “turning the other cheek”

an effective response? Having endured blows by the fists of

a white man, it is natural for Moody to want to fight back

to protect both herself and her race.

In conclusion we can say that Coming of Age in

Mississippi truly conveys what it was like to be an African-

American female living under the oppressive daily shadow of

racism. anne Moody had the courage to criticize the

ineffectiveness of the civil rights movement and openly

question whether the nonviolent approach was relevant. The

autobiography does not provide any tidy conclusions, and

when Anne Moody considers the words, “We Shall Overcome,”

which symbolized the 1963 March on Washington, she was

unafraid to speculate, “I wonder. I really wonder…” (384)

WORK CITED Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi.


WORK CITED Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi.

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