I understand the historical context of the memoir.  I'm just not sure sure what sparked an enormous revolt in the 1950s rather than earlier. What made this possible for African- Americans?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interestingly enough, I think that Moody would suggest that it was the very idea of "coming of age" idea that helped to spark the Civil Rights Movement.  Certainly, the same institutional barriers existed for so long.  The 1950s was no different in worsening conditions for people of color, specifically African- Americans.  Lynchings, discrimination and prejudice, along with the blighted opportunities of being Black in America were present in the 1950s in the same degree than in other decades.

Yet, in "coming of age," Moody shows that the Civil Rights Movement was predicated upon the asking of questions.  In World War II, African- Americans played vital roles to an American victory.  The passage of Fair Employment Practices Committee helped to ensure that some level of economic and professional opportunities were evident.  When the post- war America setting abolished this and sought to continue what was instead of embracing what can be, many people of color began to "come of age" and asked questions.  This becomes the intrinsic element that made the 1950s different from other decades.  The embrace of widespread, grass roots organizations to facilitate change in the lives of African- Americans was what made the 1950s different than other decades.  Many African- Americans, especially young people like Moody, refused to accept the condition of servitude and Jim Crow as it used to be.  This social change helped to distinguish the 1950s as a period where massive and seismic change could be evident as opposed to previous decades.

At the same time, the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education also helped all Americans to "come of age" in the demand for social equity.  The abolition of "separate but equal" as well as the need to integrate public facilities with "all deliberate speed" helped to enhance the idea that racial justice could be a cause worth fighting for and worth embracing.  The Court's ruling helped African- Americans to envision a world in which racial justice could be seen and understood.  Questioning a world of racism and discrimination became possible, something that the "coming of age" of African- Americans was something attainable.  It is in this where the 1950s is shown to be a decade of unprecedented change in the historical context of Moody's memoir.

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Coming of Age in Mississippi

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