Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

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Summary and Analysis High School: Chapters 10 – 17

New Characters
Emmett Till: A teenage boy who is killed for flirting with a white woman.

Mrs. Rice: A teacher who tells Anne about the NAACP and who mysteriously vanishes.

Mr. Fox: A white sheriff who is having an affair with a young black woman.

Bess: A high school girl who is having an affair with Mr. Fox.

Sheriff Ed Cassidy: The sheriff who beats Jerry, a black boy in Anne’s high school.

Jerry: A classmate of Anne’s who is beaten up by police without reason.

The Taplins: A black family murdered by white arsonists.

Mr. Banks: A mulatto who may have been the murder target in the Taplin arson case.

Mrs. Jetson: A poor white woman in Baton Rouge who swindles Essie out of pay.

Benty and Mrs. Rosetta: A family that is run out of town over an interracial affair.

Mr. Hicks: Anne’s basketball coach who shows her favoritism.

Wayne Burke: A white boy and son of Mrs. Burke who wants to befriend Anne.

Mrs. Hunt: A friend of Mrs. Burke’s who hires Anne as a store janitor.

Mrs. Taylor: A friend of Mrs. Hunt’s who hires Anne for domestic work.

Aunt Celia: A relative of Mama’s in New Orleans who helps Anne get work.

Johnny: Celia’s husband.

Sis: Aunt Celia’s sister and Anne’s friend in New Orleans.

Eddie: A friend of Sis and Anne’s who gets them factory work in New Orleans.

Buck: A friend of Eddie’s who is organizing workers at a chicken factory.

Staff of Maple Hill: Howard, Mike, Waite, Steve, and cross-dressers Lily White and Lola who make impressions on Anne when she waits table in New Orleans.

Samuel O’Quinn: A black man with NAACP ties who is murdered in Centreville.

Emma: Daddy/Diddly’s wife who is full of life and has loving relatives.

Coach Dunbar: The new high school coach who wants Anne to play basketball.

Part two of Moody’s autobiography, entitled “High School,” set in the mid-1950s, focuses on her discovery of how extensive racism is in her community. She realizes she is working for one of the most racist white women in Centreville, and shortly before her freshman year begins, a black boy named Emmett Till is killed by a lynch mob. In addition to Till’s death—for allegedly flirting with a white woman—a family named the Taplins is murdered in an arson, targeted perhaps accidentally by killers who wanted to murder a man next door who had been having an interracial relationship.

Anne comes to despise her tense environment and hates telling herself to behave as if everything is normal at Mrs. Burke’s home or when she is being patronized. Mrs. Burke mentions the Till death to Anne, saying it’s a shame “he had to die so soon” almost as a caution to her. Anne decides she ultimately wants to leave her hometown. She approaches a teacher named Mrs. Rice and soon learns about the NAACP, but Mrs. Rice warns Anne not to reveal their conversations for fear she will lose her job. Mrs. Rice becomes a mentor but ultimately does lose her job. Anne, disgusted with the climate, concludes,“I was sick of pretending, sick of selling my feelings for a dollar a day.”

She travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to work during her freshman summer. But work is hard to find. First a poor white woman hires her for two weeks’ work and leaves town without paying her; then she works at a family store called Ourso's Department Store, where she is undermined by a jealous coworker who falsely befriends her and gets her fired. She returns home and learns about a couple that is forced to leave town over an interracial affair, but when she asks about it upon her return home, Mama grows furious that it’s the first question to come out of her mouth. Anne becomes angry that this can’t be discussed and remembers Mrs. Rice’s advice to her—that she should cultivate some hobbies to distract her from her justifiable and mounting anger. She decides to play piano, but she also decides she will leave Centreville as soon as she finishes high school.

During her sophomore year, Anne has trouble reconciling her changing attitudes with the reality...

(The entire section is 2,224 words.)