Coming of Age in Mississippi Part 4: Chapters 22–30 Summary and Analysis
by Anne Moody

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Part 4: Chapters 22–30 Summary and Analysis

Summary

During her senior year at Tougaloo, Anne receives a letter from her mother discouraging her participation in civil rights activities and warning her that she won’t be able to come back to Centreville if she continues her activism; she informs Anne that the local police are asking questions and that during Anne’s last visit, her mother kept her inside for fear of what would happen to her in public. However, instead of changing Anne’s mind, the letter makes Anne angry and strengthens her convictions about the significance of her work. Anne realizes that her priorities have changed in fundamental ways, and she is insulted by her family’s lack of support.

Anne participates in a Woolworth’s sit-in that is timed to coincide with a demonstration. The sit-in grows violent—with Anne and other participants being verbally and physically abused and humiliated—but it is attention-getting, and a movement leader named Medgar Evers personally commends Anne and the other activists. Anne had told her mother of her participation before the sit-in occurred, but her mother begged her not to participate. Again, Anne is distressed at her mother's inability to see the significance of the event. She acknowledges that she may have to distance herself from her family to some extent to do her work, and she admits that she might even endanger them in the process of fighting for change. “I had to live my life as I saw fit. I had made that decision when I left home,” she writes.

Anne participates in marches, leads nonviolence workshops, attends demonstrations, and works with other activists to make demands of Jackson’s mayors. She is among a large group of demonstrators who are arrested and put in jail, where she observes that the White police are allowed to treat Black people with the same hostility that Nazis treated Jewish people under Hitler’s regime.

Anne’s family continues to write letters to her, and even her sister Adline encourages her to stop participating in activist work. But Anne continues on, despite the devastating news that Medgar Evers has been shot.

Anne and a group of other activists go to White churches to see if they can peacefully attend with the White worshippers, but they are kicked out of several facilities. However, one congregation welcomes them, and Anne finally begins to feel that they are making progress.

Over the summer, Anne works for the activist group Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Canton, Mississippi, on a voter registration initiative. She meets the Chinns, a Black family that runs a successful restaurant. The comparatively wealthy Chinns support Freedom House, a civil rights headquarters of sorts. But the voter registration drive is hard—Black citizens are hesitant to register, and volunteer canvassers are hard to enlist. The initiative loses funding due to low productivity, and five high school volunteers are injured when White protesters shoot buckshot at them, which significantly reduces the high school volunteer corps that Anne had established.

Exhausted by the failure, Anne gives a resigned but ultimately moving speech beseeching the Black community to get more involved in its own liberation. In the meantime, the Ku Kux Klan begins plotting against Freedom House. The volunteers hide in the surrounding area and witness the Klan coming, but the Klan doesn’t do anything, because no one is inside for them to target. As C. O. Chinn gets more involved in civil rights, he begins to experience an unprecedented level of persecution from local police, who had previously left him alone. He loses his liquor license, then his business, but nevertheless keeps working for the movement.

Anne travels with Reverend Ed King and his wife to the March on Washington in August 1963, the summer when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The drive is dangerous, and Anne is ambivalent about King’s message: it seems too idealistic and unrelated to the gritty work she and...

(The entire section is 1,932 words.)