Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

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Why did Anne Moody begin her memoir "Coming of Age in Mississippi" by outlining black life on a white-owned plantation in the South?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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What she's doing here is setting the scene for what's about to follow. By giving us an immediate insight into her background, Anne Moody's giving us a much better idea of what motivated her to get involved in the civil rights movement. Growing up as an African American on a Southern white plantation, Anne quickly discovered that she occupied the very lowest rung in society. Denied all basic rights, she and her family were treated like second-class citizens, kept down by a system of institutional repression.

By providing us with a backstory, Anne is demonstrating that the issue of civil rights isn't abstract; it's deeply personal. And that the denial of those rights affects the lives of real people on a daily basis. Most people reading Coming of Age in Mississippi would doubtless have been sympathetic to the civil rights cause to begin with, but by introducing a personal element into the story straight away, Anne Moody's hoping to make an even deeper connection with the reader, making subsequent events in her memoirs seem like a natural outgrowth of her formative experiences.

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Anne Moody was very active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She worked not only with the NAACP but also with CORE, the Congress of Racial Equity. In 1964, she became the civil rights project coordinator for Cornell University.

When she began writing her memoirs, rather than focus on her efforts to gain equality for African Americans, she chose to show what life was like for a poor black child. Moody's parents were sharecroppers in Mississippi. Life was hard, and it was filled with injustices for African Americans. By allowing readers into her own childhood experiences, Moody made the civil rights movement more than a political cause; she made it a personal issue for anyone who read her book.

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