Last Updated on June 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1067
After graduating from high school, Anne returns to New Orleans to look for work. Her father reduced her allowance after Emma was shot in the foot, and Anna is now broke. She goes to work at Maple Hill but isn’t earning much money, so she writes to her basketball coach and learns that she qualifies to apply for a basketball scholarship.
She applies for a scholarship and is accepted at Natchez College, a conservative religious school in Natchez, Mississippi. As soon as Anne arrives, she is suspicious of the environment. She secures a job in the kitchen but butts heads with Miss Harris, the head cook, whom Anne considers an “Uncle Tom.” Anne is intimidated by the size of the other women on her basketball team and irritated with the juvenile rules set by Miss Adams, the coach. When Miss Adams tries to punish Anne when she is sick, Anne defies her authority and discusses it with both the campus dean and president. While she succeeds in circumventing Miss Adams, she is demoted on the basketball team.
A few months into the school year, Anne decides she feels like a prisoner and realizes that the environment is far more repressive than what she knew in Centreville, even among her racist employers. She debates not returning to school after her first year, but she knows she can’t afford a better school and so is forced to return. During her second year on campus, she begins dating Keemp, a basketball star who many classmates admire. She resists kissing him but finally gives in after dating him for many months. However, she dislikes the collegiate pressure surrounding relationships, and although they have become good friends, she still must break up with him.
Anne encounters further trouble on campus when students discover maggots in their food. Anne knows where Miss Harris keeps food as a result of her short-lived days working in the campus kitchen, and she organizes a dining hall strike to counter the unsanitary conditions in the kitchens. Anne again faces the school administration, but rather than punishing Anne, the president helps her pursue a scholarship at Tougaloo College, the best college in the state for Black students.
The summer before entering Tougaloo, Anne worries about whether she is “too black” to attend; she has heard most students at Tougaloo are light-skinned and wealthy. However, when she arrives on campus, she realizes that this is partially a myth and that students of different skin colors all get along fine. She organizes a talent show tumbling routine with other newcomer students and befriends her roommates. One of her roommates, Trotter, is secretary of the campus NAACP chapter, and Anne decides to join. The night before her first meeting, she stays awake thinking of the injustices she encountered in Centreville.
Anne attends rallies, hears Medgar Evers speak, and becomes so involved with student activism that her grades begin to suffer for the first time. She encounters financial trouble but manages to get enough money to attend summer school, so that she can compensate for credits she needs to make up. Meanwhile, Anne begins working with a fellow student, Joan Trumpauer, on a Black voter registration drive through an organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. She learns how difficult and tiring activist work is but is introduced to the civil rights community and goes to a civil rights headquarters called Freedom House in the Mississippi Delta. Nonetheless, Anne remains frustrated in some ways at how “Negroes had been brain-washed by the whites” with regard to having to pursue their own civil rights.
She becomes emboldened and encourages Rose, a fellow volunteer, to try an impromptu sit-in at a bus station. A drunk intimidates them, and the station announcer doesn’t call out their bus time, making them miss more than one bus. As tension rises, they leave the station and encounter a Black minister, who gives them a ride back to campus and warns them that acting alone and without prior planning is dangerous.
Anne’s first few years of college serve as a kind of training ground for her eventual work as an activist in the public sphere. At home in Centreville and during her high school summers away, she has solidified her opinions and expanded her horizons, but she has not yet been in an environment where she can exert her views and make them known. The stakes on a college campus are low compared to those in the public arena, where lives are in danger and there are people interested in actively tamping down on organized civil rights activism.
The repressive Natchez College, which to Anne is neither socially nor academically challenging, serves as a lab in which she can resist authorities who try to punish her unfairly, like Miss Adams, or who don’t treat Black people properly, like Miss Harris. Anne remains resolute after meeting with the dean and the president regarding her choice to disobey Miss Adams, and she easily starts a student boycott of the kitchen run by Miss Harris. The campus is so easy for her to handle that she allows herself the luxury of a boyfriend and learns to enjoy her own sensuality more. While she becomes a nuisance for the Natchez College administration, she senses that President Buck respects her, and because of this, she earns a scholarship to Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi.
Upon entering Tougaloo, Anne briefly feels insecure—the campus is populated with many light-skinned Black students, and she’s heard rumors about intra-community racism. She swiftly becomes involved in serious activism through the SNCC and the NAACP chapter, attending rallies led by Medgar Evers and traveling the Mississippi Delta to help with a voter registration drive. She also makes beginner mistakes, such as encouraging Rose to join her in an impromptu bus station sit-in that endangers them both, and she witnesses the violence that threatens workers she’s accompanying throughout the South.
This work prepares Anne for the more serious tasks ahead, and she sharpens her observations of how to behave while facing intimidation—no longer from people she knows, but from strangers whose actions she can’t predict. By including a section in her memoir that begins and ends with her college experiences, Moody isolates and reveals both her late adolescent development and its relationship to her apprenticeship phase as an activist.
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