What are the early indications of the civil rights activist Moody will become in "Coming of Age in Mississippi"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her early life, Essie Mae - to become known as Anne - Moody certainly encountered enough discrimination to be outraged by it.  However, we see so many of her family members and peers accepting the situation.  The behavior of Miss Pearl towards her mother, for example, shows Essie Mae that there are plenty of blacks guilty of the same type of prejudice that the whites show.  However, Essie Mae - with the help of her mother - learns early not to accept this social standard.

For instance, when Essie Mae takes a job at the age of 10, she soon finds herself being expected to work longer for the same pay.  Her mother makes her quit, and Essie Mae gets a fairer job with Mrs. Clairborne.  Later, she works for Linda Jean, who is kind and fair with Essie Mae.  But she is outraged when Linda Jean is convinced by her mother, Mrs. Burke, to lower Essie Mae's wages.  We see in Essie's responses to these situations that she is not accepting of the status quo.  She demands more.

Nominating herself as a homecoming queen, even though she is teased at school, shows that Essie Mae is willing to take action against that status quo.  Then, when Essie becomes determined to stand up against the negative attitude and rudeness of Mrs. Burke, readers can see her developing into an activist:

“In a way, working for her was a challenge for me,” she writes of Mrs. Burke. “She was the first one of her type I had run into.”

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Coming of Age in Mississippi

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