Anne Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi

Anne Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi

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In this autobiography of Anne Moody a.k.a. Essie Mae as she is often called in the book, is the struggles for rights that poor black Americans had in Mississippi. Things in her life lead her to be such an activist in the fight for black equality during this time. She had to go through a lot of adversity growing up like being beat, house being burned down, moving to different school, and being abuse by her mom's boyfriend. One incident that would make Anne Moody curious about racism in the south was the incident in the Movie Theater with the first white friends she had made. The other was the death of Emmett Tillman and other racial incidents that would involve harsh and deadly circumstances. These this would make Miss Moody realize that this should not be tolerated in a free world.
First time she ever accounts racism was at the Movie Theater, before she had even realized what it was. This incident made her start questioning what racism was and what made blacks and whites different. In Centreville, Mississippi where she lived with her mother and a sister (Adline) and brother (Junior). In Centreville they meet two other kids that just had happened to be white. Essie Mae had never been a friend with white kids. The two white children Katie and Bill would always ride their bikes and skates in front of Essie Mae yard. So they got their attention on one afternoon by making Indian noises to draw them to play with the others. Katie and Bill would let Essie ride their bikes and skates all the time, the others where too young to let them try. So they would grow a close relationship not knowing what others might think of these two groups playing. Every Saturday Essie's mother would always take them to the movies, where the blacks would have to seat in the balcony and whites could seat in the bottom level. But they saw Katie and Bill there so Essie and her bother and sister followed them to the bottom level. While mother was not noticing what was going on, when mother noticed she began to start yelling and pulling them out the door. The children begun to cry this would make mom just leave the Movie Theater.

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On the way home those night Essie's mothers keep telling them how they could not do this or that with white children. Katie and Bill after the movie thing happened never played with them again. This incident put thoughts in young Essie Mae's head. This made her do a lot of thinking about white.
"Now all of a sudden they were white, and their whiteness made them better than me. I now realized that not only were they better than me because they were white, but everything they owned and everything connected with them was better than what was available to me" (pg. 34)
She would now notice that everything that had was better from the school, homes, sidewalks and even bathrooms. She could not stop trying to reveal the secret between blacks and whites. She even would play doctor with other little children because Mae thought that black and white organs and or privates made the difference. This incident was big in which it first opened her eyes to racism and that people were treated different. It was not such perniciousness moment in her life but it would later lead to some that will change her life.
Then next is not really one incident it is more like a calibration of things that evolves around the same sort of things. That is the mistreatment of black people by whites with brutal force like killing, lynching, and even burning down their homes.
The first of many was the death of the fourteen year old Emmett Till. He was a young man that had whistled at a white lady and later Emmett Till was found dead by a river. The boy was from Chicago were things are different than they are in the south.
"A boy from Mississippi would have known better than that. The boy was from Chicago. Negroes up North have no respect for people. They think they can get away with anything" pg. (132)
This stirred up many questions that Essie Mae had for her mother on why he dissevered that. The only thing mother had to offer was to act like she did not know anything. This gave Essie Mae a different king of fever in her life, the fever that she could be killed just for being black. Another thing that was the person she worked for at the time some of things terrible things were going on. Mrs. Burke the meanest women in town of Centreville. She had racism in her blood, often making Essie Mae feel terrible and scared. Often worrying always what Mrs. Burke thought about her and if she would have her hurt. Essie Mae was great in school always making the best grades, so often tutored white kids sometimes older kids, Mrs. Burke son was one of them. Mrs. Burke did not like a Negro being the teacher of a white. Once when asked the question of she thought school should be integrated for blacks and whites. Essie Mae gave an honest answer stating that blacks and whites could learn a lot from each other. Mrs. Burke got mad and stormed off, that night Essie would be scared to walk home because she thought Mrs. Burke would have her killed. Later Essie would learn of the world NAACP from Mrs. Burke talking bad about them. Also an event that happened that would help shape the way Essie Mae viewed harsh racism in Mississippi was the death of Samuel O'Quinn's murder. He was shot in the chest with a double barrel shotgun, because he was up north for the summer and had came back with intentions of starting a NAACP organization in Mississippi. While out trying to find loyal Negroes to join him, people started founding out about this it fueled the white community. A reward of five hundred dollars was given to who ever killed this man. This would scare Essie Mae later when thinking about joining this group when she is in college. Things that even happened once she got older like the church bombing in Birmingham, and the murder of Medgar Evers an important figure in the movement. These things help charge Essie Mae fire to become an activist the fight for the rights of blacks.
In Anne Moody name given when entering college, junior year in college a lady had asked her to come to a NAACP meeting that was going on, on the campus of Tougaloo College. This brought back memory of what had happened to O'Quinn when he joined; she attended the meeting needless to say. During her senior year she became more involved in the NAACP meetings, word got around that she was doing this in the Centreville community and mother would write demanding her to stop attending the meetings or it would put their family in danger in the Centreville community. While attending these meeting she would be asked to lead a small group of people that was to do a sit-in in Jackson, where she would be put in jail for. She would later join a group called CORE; she would learn how the government controlled the crops that were coming out of Mississippi. She was working hard to get the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments that make the negroes citizens not just to be writing on a piece of paper but to actually do the things that it says in it. She was giving big speeches in churches now, but later that summer in late August she had made the walk on Washington to hear Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech". When she came back to Mississippi after the march she began to get twice the threats as usual. Then she would hear to the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama on her twenty-third birthday. The though to herself that this was the answer to the March, and thought that nonviolence in the south would not work as Martin Luther King stated. Anne Moody and her friends Doris, Lenora would join COFO this was a state-wide civil rights groups in Mississippi. In November of sixty-three President Kennedy was shot in Dallas everything in Anne Moody life went black for a change President Kennedy gave Negroes hope for real freedom and now he was gone. Then that next year she would graduate Tougaloo College, and be the first in her family to do so. All the things that happened in her life help her mold her, being a strong, smart and brave women.
A reason was so open in fighting racism is that fact that everyone she would grow up with was afraid to stand up for themselves and would let the white man walk all over them. The mother of Anne Moody would just act like nothing was going on. "Just do your work like you don't know anything" (pg 130). As mother would state to Anne Moody would tell her as she was working among whites. An older person in the community was use to the old ways and would not say anything because they would be scared if they would say anything. This kind of action made Anne Moody mad at the Negro community in Centreville. For standing up for something that they know is right,
"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 whites. Anyways it was at this stage in my life that I began to look upon Negro men as cowards" (pg 136)
Not saying that Anne Moody was not afraid, but to at least put up a fight chance not just let things like this go on. Even stating that she knew she would be a part of the movement.
"I hated myself and every Negro in Centreville for not putting a stop to the killings or at least putting up a fight in an attempt to stop them. I though to waging a war in protest against the killings all by myself" (pg 202-203).
Even in college when involved with the NAACP mom and other family members would write letters telling her not to do it. Because they was scared and frighten of what might happen to them. The things Anne Moody went through help her become a strong and independent woman. To grew strong feelings toward racism that someone had to make a stand and fight for the rights for southerners in Mississippi.
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