Coming of Age in Mississippi

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Book title: Coming of Age in Mississippi

Author’s name: Anne Moody

Published by: Laurel, Dell Publishing

Publication year: 1968

The issue of black or better still, negro killing and deprivation will still hold ground in the history of America as one thing the government will forever endeavour to get fixed someday. The killing of Mathew Ajibade, Michael Brown, Troy Robinson, Felix Kumi, Nathaniel Pickett and so on. One will tend to ask this simple question and I believe that it would have crossed the heart of so many.

What have these young black folks really done to deserve these killings?

Anne Moody sets in the Negro populated city of Mississippi where she started a life of hers as a poor Negro kid. At Mississippi news heard has been no far from unpleasant ones, news ranging from Negro lynching, killing and so on. She grew up living and working to help her survive after her parents called it a day maritally. The order of the day afterwards has always been to help white folks do some chores, get paid so as to continue her education which seems of paramount importance to her. No vacation has ever occurred without her thinking of a job to sustain her for the rest of the school sessions. Anne soon began getting used to her white bosses, but trouble soon sets in after Negro kids were soon seen as inferior to their white counterparts. Anne who has never been happy about the several ongoings and killings of Negroes got home most times and would ask her poor mother what some certain terms or at times who some folks were. Mrs. moody would really be terrified about such insinuations, and in most responses of hers, she’d told Anne to let the sleeping dog lie and instead face what she went to do in these white folk’s place. From these responses, Anne sensed mother and several other Negro folks were really terrified to talk about this persisting issue of racial prejudice at the detriment of the Negroes.

After Anne came in contact with Mrs Burke, another white boss of hers, she began to hate white folks. She got more angry after the killing of Emmett Till, this time, of course, was when activism sprouted forth from her even when her teacher, Mrs Rice warned her to take off her mind from it. Mrs Burke helped fuel up the flaring fire of hatred Anne had nursed for the white folks, and then she quitted her work with her.

Racial discrimination towards the Negroes took a high toll after the incidence of molestation and killing became prevalent in Centerville and neighbouring black communities. Anne felt really bad about this and most especially with the fact that Mr Burke has been having a secret meeting relating to blacks right. Emmett Till and Taplin killing were another shockers for her, thus she set out to stay with Uncle Ed so as to be free of the persisting troubles which Negroes faced at Centerville.

Troubles still lingered in the city of Centerville on Anne’s return from Baton Rogue after she’d earned sixty-five dollars. Benty and Mrs Rosetta had been ejected out of town. Mama who always hated talking about Negro related issues of maltreatment walked away without giving an answer to Anne after she enquired about them.

After Anne had left Mrs Burke’s place due to all her naggings and suspicious moves, and even the false allegation levelled against junior, she then ended up working for another friend of Mrs Burke who seemed to be amongst the member of the guild. Anne’s affection for Wendy seems no longer controllable in that, she almost fell off the Ladder at Mrs Hunt’s shop when she was up to cleaning the display window. Mrs Hunt’s unhealthy interference when she saw Wendy and Anne talking got Anne uncomfortable and then she made up her mind on the spot that she wouldn’t be staying there long.

To get some few dollars wasn’t as easy as Anne and her sister thought after she (Anne) had left Centerville this time again but for New Orleans. Working in the chicken factory drained out life, and sapped off energy from them. They had to spend hours cleaning up chickens. The stress tolled upon Anne that she vowed never to return back there. But she was soon up the next day when sis called her up for work. The thought of what will sum up after the month end then let her go with her. Anne vowed never to eat chicken for years after working in the chicken factory, not even the boxed one.

Having the almost rare privilege to work in New Orleans seems to be one big deal for Anne. Almost when she thought there wasn’t any job again, an offer showed up in a Restaurant she never thought of initially. Her story here seems sad due to the fact that she had to work in the same workplace with a Granny. Normally, some culture will have it that when a woman had seen her first generation, she ought to be relieved of any stressful work but here is a grandma washing dishes not minding anyone around her. Lola and the likes seem to almost discourage Anne from working at the restaurant but after Mama told her about them, she soon forsook whatever they might be saying and focused more on her business.

After Lola’s advice on Anne’s look, she seems to be attracting more attention than she ever thought of in recent time. Some white men, her stepfather and most especially Coach Nick seem to be really tripping for this cool Negro girl that they can’t stop thinking about. The issues of Negro killing in Centerville resurrect again, and now Samuel O’ Quinn had been murdered. Anne felt terrified and was almost staging a kind of war inside of her.  Raymond got in her way with constant nagging and cursing that Anne wouldn’t want to hear. She soon vacated Centerville when it was unbearable and then stayed at Woodville with her father who seem though to have been expecting her. Emma, Anne’s stepmom did the little she can to accommodate her stepdaughter. But what seems wrong when all ought to be going on well.

Wilbert shot Emma which she (Emma) did receive an unplanned error on Wilbert. Anne graduated gallantly with other colleagues of hers and while her graduating class marched out, there she was with Mama. She finally united again with her mother who had long to see her.

Anne won a scholarship to Natchez, a Baptists college. Natchez was prison-like to Anne who had travelled all alone to far places. Other girls who had not experience such freedom were much crazier about it, no wonder she finds it hard getting along with their class.

Been able to make the entire college student peacefully boycott from the college’s restaurant due to inappropriate meal preparation was one trait of peaceful protesting. Of course activism too. Anne seems to have the trait of activism which seems to be the giant in her waiting for the right time for expression. She was never timid to say her mind even while she was at Centerville and would never allow anyone take her for a ride. Anne seems to show an interest in joining the dreaded NAACP she thought killed Samuel O’ Quinne after she asked a friend the kind of meeting she attends.

Anne who has never been glad about the ill treatment of blacks fatally joined the NAACP movement and was soon at the forefront of leading a certain demonstration alongside Rose in a Train station who did go but were advised by a Negro driver who warned that they shouldn’t do such thing without their organisation’s permission. After the death of Medgar, activism activities seem to have been slowed down a little bit, but Anne and some other college student still gather to protest in small groups. The white majority may be really mad at the Negro protest but somewhat still had a pitying look on these college students’ pressing request. Resolutions were even extended to churches after the death of Medgar, thus forbidding any of NAACP gathering or their likes. She now seems unstoppable towards her commitment to the liberation of the Negroes in the states of America. Mrs Moody, her mother sent forth another letter, this time around begging her to quit the NAACP movement based on various news they got at home in Centerville. She read the letter, felt sorry for mama but was in no way ready to take mama’s plea that she quit her activities with the group. Several warnings and attacks on Negroes went on and on but none of the new set of adults was also ready to quit.

After Anne saw herself on Klan’s blacklist, coupled with mama’s frequent letter, she finally decided to leave the movement for a while. She left Canton in Mississippi and arrived in New Orleans where she reunited with her sister mum and junior, his younger brother who also later told her one night, of the murder of Emma’s brother. This again shook Anne that she was advised to get a medical attention. Anne really missed her friends over there at Canton that she dreamt about them. She finally went back to Canton unknowingly to her, it was exactly a year they had the Woolworth’s Sit-in demonstration. The Mississippi project had really improved and more turnouts were recorded over six months Anne was away.

After browsing through a summary of Anne’s life as a youngster and activist who was one of those who led the movement to the emancipation of blacks in the American states, let’s consider the thematic approach as discussed in this book.

Poverty

Living in a state of abject poverty was the first theme expressed in this book. When small dirty accommodation allotted to a family for survival seem the greatest thing they can have to survive for one to survive but most negroes will live there since there wasn’t alternative (see paragraph one of chapter one ). Since there was still a strong opposition to certain right Negroes ought to enjoy, even their wages became small hereby leading to inability to meet their daily family needs including feeding. Anne cited an example of a poverty-stricken life when she said, (paraphrased) ‘often when Mama didn’t have money for food, Grandfather Moody gave her some’. The level of poverty grew so high that Beans was the only meal the family had, beans without meat.

Racial Prejudice

The vivid disparity between the white and blacks was just too wide. Negroes were seen as inferior and this as well affected their subconscious when most of them were confronted with some racial issues. This theme was the major rise of the activism in Anne and of course set into action when she mimicked the doctor that once worked on Grandma by Playing a game called ‘The doctor’ hereby checking Katie, Bill, Sandra and Paul’s private. The vexation to avenge the right of the Negroes had grown in her after she had witnessed several assaults on Negro kids and the older ones with an emphasis more on the case she has with her little white friends when she met with them at a Cinema. The fact that racial imbalances were in place set fear in the heart of high school negro student going to  college where there were lots of white kids lived. And even with the Moody’s, they also had a share of the inferiority complex when mother told Anne never to see herself in the same class with the white folks. Mrs Moody had told Anne to do her job with the white folks and leave them with their problems. One would have wonder why a person will work in a place and not relate a little with the owners overseeing business activities there. This, of course, another clear indicator that the fear of the white folks didn’t just remain at its physical state but has transcended into their thought hereby taking charge of their subconscious.

Child Labour

This theme strongly buttressed the theme of poverty aforementioned. The rate of poverty amongst the Negro families led to underage labour. Young negro kids who haven’t attain the labour age (18+) gave their self to labour due to the fact that they need to meet the need of themselves (pay their tuition, buy cloths) and likewise that of their immediate family. In the course of doing this, so many atrocities came their way such as rape, verbal abuse, murder etc. Anne as a person also lied about her age when she cannot help it.

Activism

Activism took one-third of this book since that was the end result of some painful years of oppression on the Negroes. Anne in this book led movements that help curb Negro slavery in certain states in America. She didn’t just think of activism but the great oppression of the Negroes pushed her into it. One may think she is the saviour for her Centreville folks, but they didn’t see her that way. They rather thought Anne was putting them more into some form of danger by exposing herself to radical activism. Anne’s activism prowess set into action when she got admitted to Natchez and there she had the best opportunity to vent her spleen on the white obnoxious rulings on the Negroes through NAACP movement. The Woolworth’s Sit-in demonstration was one great demonstration that announced Anne and also the demonstration that announced Anne. Anne and some other activist later became diehard to the movement’s objective in that, they were never ready to give up. Mrs Moody sent forth several letters, telling of her displeasure that Anne was part of the movement, she’d begged her several time to quit the NAACP movement based on various news they got at home in Centerville. Anne read the letter, felt sorry for mama but was in no way ready to take mama’s plea that she quit her activities with the group. Several warnings and attacks on Negroes went on and on but none of these adults (those involved in the activism) was ready to quit.

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