Anne Moody in his book ”Coming of age in Mississippi”, isn’t sure that the civil rights movement will end up as being a success. She is having a lot of doubts about the future, questioning herself about her sacrifices and the suffering she had to endure as an activist. In 1968, the civil rights movement and the freedom summer are still recent memories and nothing is won. The author wonder, if Mississippi will always be stuck in another time. She had gave so much to the cause that she cannot envision only small slow changes.
All those efforts were calling for drastic political and social reforms, in order to shake the racial status quo in the South. This essay will be an attempt at conceptualizing the childhood and familial background of Anne Moody, showing how it affect her attitude and vision of ”the movement”. Secondly, her implication in the civil rights movement will be put a broader context and tie with important events she witnessed. Finally, her personal sacrifices and her mental health decay resulting of the psychological violence will be conceptualized to get a firm understanding of her state of mind when she wrote the book.
Anne Moody was raised in southern Mississippi near Louisianan border, in a town named Centreville. She is from a poor family and is abandoned at an early by her father(she will reconnect with him in a late teen). The area where she grew up is the theater of intense racial divisions and violence, it is something that came to be part of her everyday life. At an early age she will get to understand her blackness, it will be a life changing experience. ”Now all of sudden they were white, and their whiteness made them better than me”(p34), she soon came to realize playing with her white neighbors.
Never before she would have thought that her skin color was a social factor of rejection and racism, affecting her chance at being the best. Her self-awareness of the inequity will lead to a great sentiment of injustice. Even at home, she strongly resent his step-dad Raymond family for snubbing her mother because she isn’t a mulatto like them. She felt her humiliation, her desire to be treated as an equal. Anne became strongly aware that racism is not only a black and white thing. Indeed, she envisions getting equal treatment by always being the best.
This competitive side of her personality will enable her to be a strong activist, but on the downside she his always really tough on herself and everyone around her. She witnessed a lot of violence in her hometown and over time she will start to resent the inertia of her people. After the infamous torture and murder of Emmet Till, as a 15 years old girl she cannot contain her emotion and state in her book: ”In fact, I think I had a stronger resentment toward Negroes for letting the whites kill them than toward the whites.
Anyway, it was a stage in my life that I began to look upon Negro men as cowards. ”(p136). The violence around her made her sick, but she didn’t know at that point how to challenge her reality. After numerous violent episode, including the burning of the Taplin family house and the beating of her classmate Jerry with the complicity of the Sheriff, she had enough. She knows that she need out for the summer and head to Baton-Rouge, for the first time being in an environment with lower racial tension.
It will totally change her perception about the treatment of black people in Centreville, she became critical of the racist status quo and cannot pretend that all is normal anymore. Upon her return in her hometown, she isn’t feeling well anymore: ”I’ll have a nervous breakdown in the street. I’ll surely get sick if anything(… )”(p153). It is important to understand her growing up in Centreville, experiencing racism in one of the worst places in the United States and the alienation resulting from it. She had witnessed how it was affecting every aspect of negro life, the despair and resignation of her people.
She isn’t an idealist Northerner girl, she knows that the problem is deeply ingrained into southern communities. Growing up she came to resent the alienation of her people and this aspect of her personality, will make her highly critical about her achievements during the civil rights movement. She is openly doubtful of the will to fight of the Negroes in Mississippi and her life experience support this vision. ” They beat their frustrations and discontent out on each other. ”(p317) When she quit Centreville for New Orleans seeking work, she became more aware of black resistance.
Some of her people weren’t taking the abuse of white people anymore, some of them were fighting for a better standard of living. Ironically, she figured that out while working as a scab in a chicken factory. At this moment she isn’t an activist yet, even tho she came to resent the abuses, her radicalization isn’t at complete. She’s not willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of black civil rights. Is time at Tougaloo college will concord with the beginning of her implication in ”The movement”, especially with an NAACP secretary as a roommate. (rephrase)”
The more I remembered the killings, beatings, and intimidations, the more I worried what might possibly happen to me or my family if I joined the NAACP. But I knew I was going to join, anyway. ”(p269) She joint and can be visible at the Woolworth sit-in and numerous other demonstrations in Jackson. This part of her life, show her the strong resistance organized by the white people against the black quest for first class citizenship. Anne was aware of the harsh racist environment around her growing up, but she now see it from a different perspective.
Hope is there at last, Medger Evers is described as a second coming of Luther Kings and Mrs. Moody is highly impressed by him. Tugaloo is slowly becoming the epicenter of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, from the freedom riders to speakers like Jackie Robinson and Margaretta Belafonte. This period of the civil rights movement, full of optimism will come to an abrupt end with Medgar Evers assassination. Sadly, the reign of terror and violence will spiral out of control. Indeed, her resentment for Negroes inertia will come back:”How could Negroes be so pitiful.
How could they just sit by and take all this shit without any emotions at all ? ”(p301). Why aren’t black revolting after this horrible crime? At this point of her story, she came to understand the danger more accurately and feel the violence on another level. What she was coping with in her everyday living become unsupportable, she want change! She is having increasing difficulty to relate to the degree of alienation and fear of her people. The more she get implicated, the more the backlash against her or his family are frequent.
Also, a division inside the civil rights movement in Jackson are starting to annoy her and she decided to move to Canton, on a Core campaign for registration in Madison County. After the euphory and idealism of her time in Tugaloo, her next chapter will be one where she will lose faith in her mission. We have seen before that she always want to be the best and this all or nothing attitude that will lead her in dark territory. Her time in Canton will be really intense and the psychological violence sustained are affecting her vision of the civil rights movement accomplishments.
In several passages of her book, we can see evidence of mental exhaustion and signs of severe anxiety. Her experience is painful, she is suffering from in investment in the cause. Indeed, she was already estranged from her family, at the time but the exposure given by her militant action make her an even more noticeable figure. Numerous threat on her family and her put her despair, she is feeling alone fighting for something that feel unattainable. ”(…) no one knew of the agony I was going through because of it. …) all the letters I was receiving from Mama, begging me to leave Mississippi and always telling me that my life was in danger. ”(p342).
Anne is suffering all along and feel suffocated by the violent and harsh environment of rural Mississippi. Slowly, she is entering a survival mode, straining her mental health to a dangerous point. ”(p335) There was always so much work, so many problems, and so many threats that I hardly ever thought of anything except how to best get the job done and survive from day to day”.
During her time at Canton working for CORE, she reaches a level of despair that made her question whenever things are ever going to change. She question the voting aim of the campaign, are they really targeting the most urgent need of the black community. She is acknowledging the fact that the poverty of the black population and the struggle to eat or dress are much more important than voting for most of them. The fear of the white supremacy interiorized by them makes it really hard for drastic change.
Indeed, their everyday struggle to live made them reticent to the idea of sacrificing the little they’ve got, only for voting. While she understands the situation, she became aware that fast progress are impossible and, therefore, her bitterness grows. ” I felt like killing them. If it was left up to me, I wouldn’t give them anything. That’s all niggers is good for, looking for something for nothing. ”(p354), state her coworker Mrs. Chinn and is clearly showing also what’s on Anne mind at the time.
She’s got an ambiguous feeling about the success of the movement and grow more and more depress. Even the ”I had a Dream” speech of Martin Luther King feel hopeless for her because Canton is hopeless. We will explain later how the psychological strain resulting for the threats on his family and herself, are going to be a pivotal point in his vision of the civil rights movement global achievements. she cannot see the civil right movement success as long as she can witness black inertia and alienation toward white domination