Coming of Age in Mississippi Summary
by Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi Summary

Coming of Age in Mississippi is an autobiography by Anne Moody in which Moody recounts having grown up during the turbulent civil rights movement.

  • After entering high school, Anne notices an escalation in racial tensions in her hometown of Centreville.
  • Anne earns a scholarship to Tugaloo College, where she becomes involved in the civil rights movement. She receives several death threats as a result.
  • Fearing for her life, Anne briefly moves from Mississippi, to New Orleans to live with her sister. She later returns to Mississippi and joins a delegation heading to Washington, DC, to testify in front of Congress.

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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 Americans.

Part four, "The Movement," follows Anne's increasing involvement with the civil rights movement, including a sit-in at the Woolworth's lunch counter and many other demonstrations throughout Jackson. Anne is eventually arrested and jailed, and she begins to receive letters from her family that her behavior is causing issues for them back in Centreville. Anne pushes on despite this, organizing a march to protest the death...

(The entire section is 2,060 words.)