Coming of Age in Mississippi

Published: 2021-07-09 21:15:07
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What did the murder of Samuel O’Quinn do to Anne Moody? 2. What were the causes of Anne Moody’s relationship with her mother changing when she went to college at Tougaloo? 3. During the movement, why was organizing in Canton, Mississippi so much more difficult than in Jackson, Mississippi? Introduction Coming of Age in Mississippi is an autobiographical book written by Anne Moody. The book entails the struggles throughout an African American Childs’ life from four-years-old through womanhood in the South and the role that race and racism played in America during that time.
It helps one to become aware of life in the South before and during the Civil Rights Movement while showing the triumphs and the enduring problems that came out of the Civil Rights Movement. The book is divided into four sections: Childhood, High School, College, and The Movement. Childhood The book began in a child’s point of view, perfectly told, of growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. She described the landscape, the people, and her own emotions with perfect clarity.
While showing racism from the perspective of a child, she included her parents’ divorce following the constant moving of her family due to the fact that her mother struggled to feed the family on her own. Essie Mae experienced the repercussions of The Jim Crow Law at an early age. The book discussed the competition and tensions within the black community, the black churches, religion, and folk medicines. She began school and was a very good student, spirited and meticulous. Furthermore she was a hard worker outside the home as a domestic cleaner. Before she was even in middle school, Essie Mae got her first job working for a white lady.
She swept her porches in exchange for two gallons of clabbered milk and seventy-five cents a week. This was the part of the book where she showed life through the eyes of “the help. ” In that she worked for a white school teacher that treated her like an equal, let her eat dinner with them, and encouraged her to go to college. Her income helped to provide food and clothes for the entire family. I admired how she never expressed any resentment about needing to contribute to keeping the family going at a young age. She never viewed it as her parents’ fault.
It was just the way it was, and she was willing to do what it took to help support her family. High School This section of the book delineated her experiences at high school and through her teenage years. As she grew older, her eyes were opened to the terrible racial problems and violence towards African Americans in Mississippi. This section began with the lynching of Emmett Till and how it affected the black community. Essie Mae then learned that Mrs. Burke (the white lady she worked for at the time) was active in “the guild” (aka the KKK) and started to worry that she would try to frame her for a false wrong-doing.
She started showing signs of being in invariable pressure during this time, both in her body (headaches and losing weight) and in her mind (feeling trapped). The feeling of being stuck working for someone who you knew was going around organizing the murders of people of your race must have been traumatizing. It was in high school when the Ku Klux Klan activity in her hometown ramped up and she started to develop her fighting spirit that carried her out of white people’s homes and into the Civil Rights Movement. She was angry and fed up with the system, white people, and even the black people.
But I also hated Negroes. I hated them for not standing up and doing something about the murders. In fact, I think I had a stronger resentment toward Negroes for letting the whites kill them than toward the whites. Anyway, it was at this stage in my life that I began to look upon Negro men as cowards (pg. 136). She started to become aware of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) and the work of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) even though her mother would not tell her anything about it. She became sick of people and tired of the way things were in Centerville.
Through it all she still excelled in high school and was an excellent basketball player, while using these things as a means of escape from the violence that surrounded her. She decided to spend the summer in New Orleans. She worked in a chicken factory as a strike breaker then found work in a restaurant making more money than she ever had before. Essie Mae started becoming a young woman, changed her hair and the way she dressed. She started having to deal with sexual advances from men, including her mother’s partner, Raymond, that caused immense problems in the family.
She quickly grew tired of Raymond looking at her and moved in with her father and his wife until she graduated from high school from one of the new “separate but equal schools” in Wilkinson County. This section ended when Essie Mae received a basketball scholarship to attend Natchez Junior College in the fall. College In the shortest section of the book, Essie Mae began her college career at Natchez Junior College. She was very excited and nervous about college but was disappointed with Natchez. There were tensions with some of her teachers and the administration. She was tough, organized, and opinionated.
She was a loner but worked hard on the basketball team and did excellent in school. She protested against the condition of the food at the college and led a demonstration that foreshadowed her role in the Civil Rights Movement. Her passion led her to Tougaloo Southern Christian College, the highly respected Historically Black College, in the state capital Jackson, Mississippi. Tougaloo was at the center of a lot of the activity of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. It was here that she made her first white friend, a fellow Civil Rights activist, Joan Trumpauer.
Joan was a secretary for Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and they were starting a voter registration drive in Greenwood and Greenville. The SNCC was recruiting students to participate and Essie was asked to go canvass every other weekend and agreed without hesitation. This was what started her activity in the Civil Rights Movement that led her to meet many leaders of the Movement, such as Medgar Evers and Reverend King. As Essie Mae began to get wrapped up in the SNCC it started reflecting in her schoolwork.
At the end of the section she decided to start her own sit-in at a bus station. Essie Mae and her friend Rose went into the white section at the Trailways. It did not take long before some drunken white man showed up and started harassing them. They missed several busses due to the fact that they were not being announced. Rose was scared and begged to leave as the crowd grew larger and louder. They backed out slowly and were saved by a black man that told them to get in the car and drove them all the way back to the college.
Through this experience Essie Mae learned quickly that she needed planning and an escape plan to do a sit-in again. The Movement The final section of the book, Essie Mae profoundly described her experiences in the Civil Rights Movement. This section of the autobiography was filled with astounding events, highs and lows, trials and tribulations, and reflected on how hard it was for black people to survive during that time. This section began with Essie Mae sending her mother a NAACP flyer for a convention in Jackson hoping that her mother would be as excited as she was.
In response to Essie Mae’s letter her mother replied angrily, she claimed that if Essie Mae did not stop her activities in the Movement that she was going to get herself and her family killed. This was when she started to reflect and realized that she could never go back home again now that she had been affiliated with the NAACP. “But something happened to me as I got more and more involved in the Movement. It no longer seemed important to prove anything. I had found something outside myself that gave meaning to my life. ” (pg.286) This is where one gets a great sense of why she became so involved, her exhaustion from overwork and stress, the tensions it caused with her family, the very real risk of white aggression and terrorization. Essie Mae became friends with John Salter, who was in charge of the NAACP, through him she learned that sit-in demonstrations were starting in Jackson. This was when she was asked by John to lead the famous Woolworth Sit-In. During the sit-in, Essie Mae showed her strength and how determined that she was to never give up no matter how rough things became.
After the murder of Medgar Evers, the Jackson NAACP leader, the militancy in Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC started to rally together protesters quickly with the help of Essie Mae, of course. They were all gathered up quickly by the police and hauled off to the fairgrounds and were treated worse than swine in an auction house. Not long after things get more violent and hard to handle, CORE opened an office in Canton to start a voter registration drive in Madison County, Essie Mae seen this as an opportunity to start fresh and was determined to go.
This was a very difficult area to organize because of the black indifference and white violence. Everyone pleaded with her not to go even Reverend King himself. “I also felt there was a chance of winning the battle regardless of how costly it turned out to be,” she declared (pg. 312). After being there for quite some time barley surviving she got on SNCC’s payroll and they provided food and clothes to help the poor blacks in the area. Although she opposed the Freedom Vote Campaign, she still worked hard as a volunteer.
Fatigued and in poor health, she decided to leave Canton eventually and headed to New Orleans. She felt alienated from her family because they feared her activity in the Movement and got involved with CORE in there. In May of 1964, she returned to Canton to work on the Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign, a colossal campaign to educate African Americans on the Movement and encourage them to vote. The program also provided clinics, schools, and social services for the poor. In the last chapter of the book Essie Mae boarded the bus to Washington to attend the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) hearings.
Everyone was singing freedom songs while she was wondering if anything would ever come of all they had worked for. The End Conclusion Essie Mae’s passion for doing what was right in the face of danger and pain was significant and admirable. She would rather die fighting the system than to live under the system. She did not seem to realize it, but it took an unusual level of strength and courage to do the things that she did. It takes people like her to make change happen and become the leaders that get people to act in spite of their fears.
Throughout reading this book, my eyes were opened to the many difficulties that blacks endured throughout the Movement. It showed me racism from the eyes of a child all the way through to racism in the eyes of a strong, black woman of the South. I feel that I more deeply understand what they went through, though I will never experience it for myself. I really enjoyed reading this book especially the first section due to the uncanny way that she captured her childhood voice in her writing. I think this was a great book to read in this class as an assignment and I would urge that you do assign it in the future.

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