Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

Start Your Free Trial

What happens in Coming of Age in Mississippi?

Coming of Age in Mississippi recounts the true story of narrator Anne Moody's coming of age during the civil rights movement. Her parents are sharecroppers, and her father deserts the family when Anne is just a child. In elementary school, Anne maintains excellent grades while working after school to help support her family.

  • After entering high school, Anne realizes that racial tensions are escalating in her hometown of Centreville. A black boy is killed for whistling at a white woman, and many other attacks occur in the following years.
  • Anne earns a scholarship to Tugaloo College, where she becomes involved in the civil rights movement and organizes several voter registration drives. This results in death threats from disgruntled whites determined to prevent African Americans from gaining political power.
  • Fearing for her life, Anne briefly moves from Canton, Mississippi, to New Orleans to live with her sister. She later returns to Canton and joins a delegation heading to Washington, DC, to testify in front of Congress.

Download Coming of Age in Mississippi Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

Anne Moody's Coming of Age follows the true story of Anne, who grew up during the civil rights movement. 

Part one, "Childhood," describes Anne's upbringing, the first four years of which occurred in a shack at a plantation where her sharecropper family worked the fields. Early on, Anne's father abandons the family after straying from his marriage and developing a gambling habit. This results in Anne's mother moving the family off the plantation and closer to the town of Centreville. This results in huge financial struggles for the family, who cannot afford to eat. 

Anne starts working when she enters the fourth grade in order to help support the family. The family moves into a house that is built by her mother's boyfriend, Raymond. Although Anne's mother and Raymond marry, Raymond cannot financially support the family either. Despite this, Anne does very well in school, picks up basketball, and is chosen to be the homecoming queen.

Part two, "High School," follows Anne as she begins to finally open her eyes to the racial strife and violence in her life. When she is fourteen years old, a local African American boy is killed for whistling at a white woman. Anne overhears a discussion about the NAACP shortly thereafter and learns that the organization is dedicated to helping African Americans living in the South. Anne begins to feel a growing sense of hatred for everyone—whites for their violence against her people, and African Americans for their (at least in Anne's eyes) apathy. Tensions continue to escalate, and one of Anne's classmates is beaten; later, an act of arson almost kills a family. 

Anne ends up spending the summer in New Orleans with her Uncle Ed; however, when she returns to Centreville, things are still bad. Her cousin has been chased out of town, and Raymond seems to hate her. Anne distracts herself with school and tutoring Wayne Burke and his white friends in math. A friendship develops between the two which is cut short when Wayne's mother accuses Anne or her brother of stealing. Anne continues to work hard, albeit elsewhere, and saves up money for college.

In her last year of high school, Anne realizes that Raymond sexually desires her. They fight, and she leaves home to go stay with her father and his new wife, Emma; however, also treats her poorly, and Anne leaves town after graduating.

Part three, "College," details Anne getting a basketball scholarship to a junior college in Mississippi, which she ends up finding suffocating. She starts dating a fellow basketball player and gets involved in activism by organizing a boycott of the school cafeteria. She later transfers with a scholarship to Tugaloo College and joins her local NAACP chapter. Her involvement causes her grades to suffer; however, Anne believes that her work, particularly in registering African American voters in the Mississippi Delta, is critical to changing the treatment of African...

(The entire section is 2,060 words.)