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Coming of Age in Mississippi is an autobiography by Ann Moody that describes the civil rights movement during her lifetime in Mississippi. The book contains numerous tribulations and trails that the African American in the south faced. Many African Americans lived in segregations; the race was still a contentious issue during this period making their lives hard. Ann Moody as a little girl had a lot to learn from the environment and the social constructs present. The gender and racial concepts shaped Ann Moody’s life to become a Civil Right Activist.
Race refers to a category of people who share specific physical characteristics, for example, the skin color, stature, and facial feature (Jada Benn and Torres Colón). From a very early age, Mama tries to protect Moody form the harsh reality of racism. Moody, on the other hand, does not understand what racism means. At the playground, children play together thus showing the different perspective about race that the children and adults at that time believed. However as Moody grows she begins to see the disparity in the race when she realizes there is a difference in privilege between the whites and the Blacks. She states, “Now that I was thinking about it, their schools, homes, and playgrounds were better than mine” (Moody 34).
While growing up Moody interacted more with the whites, she would cook, iron, and clean for the white families. She worked with Mrs. Burke long enough and realized how she had little respect and constantly demeaned the African American race. Her interactions with Mrs. Burke led her to question the societal norms the existed between two races. On constant occasions, Mrs. Burke would tell her about how to behave and act. In another event, Mrs. Burke asks Moody if she had heard about the Fourteen-year-old boy that was killed. Mrs. Burke tells Moody that the murder occurred because the young man had gone out of his pace with a white woman. Mrs. Burke states that a boy from Mississippi would have known better and insists that Negros form the North have no respect for people (Moody 131-132).
When she joined high school, Moody understood the meaning of NAACP and the motive behind the movement. The threats and constant lynching of the African Americans changed her perspective and resolved. As much as the crimes disgusted and perplexed her most was the fact that the African Americans did not react to the injustices against them she states, “Negroes are being killed, beaten up, run out of town by these white folks and everything. But Negroes can’t even talk about it’ (Moody 155). When they visited the movie theater with her friends, Anne experienced the firsthand segregation and the fact that the divide in the society was not just on economic terms but a difference on the superiority and inferiority of the races. In the theater, Moody had to sit at the Jim Crow section since she could not sit together with her white friends. She was opposed to the Jim Crow system, decided to move out of Mississippi, and lived with her relatives in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. However, the situation was the same since African Americans did not have any freedom or equality even where the Jim Crow rules did not apply.
While Anne was growing she did not have any racism thoughts, all children were friends and played together. Conversely, her experiences in racial discrimination and injustices plague her mind that she is worried to apply for the Tougaloo College for fear of discrimination (Duran 8). These incidences push Moody to join the Civil Right rallies and groups on school. She states that most African Americans are complacent with the injustices they face, but she has to defend herself since she does not want to go through or experience some of the horrifying acts she witnessed while growing up. While in school, Ann gets involved with the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). The role of the SNCC workers is to register voters and speak with African Americans on the importance of voting. Tomlinson's affirms that her strength was not the only reason she had to join the civil rights movement but the combination of the experiences she had as a child and personal determination to make a difference in the lives of the African Americans.
Gender issues are present in the journey of Anne Moody as a civil right activist. However, Anne moody does not dwell on the gender inequality issues in the book as she emphasizes racial oppression and injustices. After the murder of Emmitt Till, Moody also realizes that society has disparities regarding gender. Tomlinson's asserts that moody realized that white men had access to women form both races while the black men had to stick to the African American women. When the white men disrespected the African American women, nobody saw it as a crime, but the African American men faced dire consequences for associating with White women. Emmitt Till murder was because of whistling at a white woman a very petty crime (Duran 7). The society viewed the black men as predators, white women as victims and African American women as Jezebels. While in high school, Moody experiences instances of sexualization because of her body and skin color. In Natchez College, the boys in the school made subtle suggestions to be her boyfriends while the dean constantly ogles at her. While she was working at CORE, she hears of a rape case of a high school girl. The women in Mississippi suffer both racial and gender oppression from the whites in the society.
Racial inequality and oppression was the main reason that Anne Moody ventured into Civil Rights Movements. From a very young age, Anne realized that the African Americans in Mississippi maintained status quo that permitted the Whites to oppress the African Americans more. Mrs. Rice confirms the fears when she tells Moody, “the Negroes here ain’t going to do nothing about these killings and beatings and burning (Moody 155). Contrarily, Moody believed that staying within the societal confines was foolish while her parents think stepping out of the regulation was deadly. As Duran asserts Moody created a constructed an overview of the issues around her and formed a rationale to fight against the oppression system through civil right movements (9). In Tougaloo College, Moody realized that African Americans needed to come together to fight the oppression and change their future. She took it upon herself to try to create awareness among African Americans educating them about their voting rights. The racial experiences in the society grew her anger that she made a resolve to stand and fight against oppression. While the older generation feared death, Moody was afraid of complacency with the situation and acceptance of oppression.
Duran, Jane. "Anne Moody and the Mississippi Life: A Tale of the Civil Rights Era." Peace Research (2014): 113-125.
Moody, Anne. Coming of age in Mississippi. Delta, 1968.
Tomlinson's, Delia. "The Civil Rights Movement and Anne Moody’s Perceptual Lens." The American South, 20 Apr. 2013, deliasamericansouth.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/the-civil-rights-movement-and-anne-moodys-perceptual-lens/.
Torres, Jada Benn, and Gabriel A. Torres Colón. "Racial experience as an alternative operationalization of race." Human biology 87.4 (2015): 306-312.
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