Coming of Age in Mississippi

by Anne Moody

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  • Topic #1

    In Coming of Age in Mississippi, autobiographer Anne Moody explains how her response to a poverty-stricken childhood in the racist South turns her into an activist for black rights rather than a victim of her times. Describe how Moody's use of personal experiences growing up in the South helped transform her into an activist.

    I. Thesis statement: In Coming of Age in Mississippi, Moody depicts how her poor childhood makes her angry enough to try and change circumstances for blacks. Rather than live as a victim of circumstance, she becomes an activist.

    II. Example of how Moody’s family is victimized
    A. Poverty and hunger
    B. Plantation and farm life—poor wages, difficult work
    C. Childhood labor
    D. Unstable father figures
    E. Inter-black class conflicts—dark skinned vs. pale blacks and mulattos

    III. Example of how blacks throughout the South are victimized
    A. Segregation of churches, schools, retail stores, public transport
    B. Lynchings and Klan activity
    C. Low-paying work
    D. Lack of a vote or police protection

    IV. Moody’s response to life in Centreville
    A. Academic drive and establishing mentor contacts outside the family
    B. Resisting mistreatment and not absorbing the subservient role taught her
    C. Leaving the city to live in larger communities and earn more money
    D. Questioning the mistreatment of blacks in her community

    V. Moody’s response to racism throughout the South
    A. Joining “the movement” in college
    1. Participating in the Woolworth’s sit-in for equal treatment
    2. Working to win the black vote
    3. Working to end black poverty—gathering food and clothing
    B. Traveling to Washington, D.C., for national rallies
    C. Setting an example for younger generations
    D. Making some impression on her family

    VI. Conclusion
    A. Family’s rejection or lack of understanding of her work
    B. Inability to return to Centreville due to death threats
    C. Social acceptance and family role as part of “the movement”

  • Topic #2

    In Coming of Age in Mississippi, Moody notes in several instances that one of the problems with racism in the South is black complicity with it. She encounters the problem in her family and with others she meets while involved in the civil rights movement and wants blacks to get angry and take more responsibility for their own fate. Write a paper describing how southern blacks, according to Moody, were complicit with southern white racists.

    I. Thesis statement: In Coming of Age in Mississippi, Moody notes that while white racism is evil, black fear and the resulting complicity with racism is equally negative and must be addressed as part of the push for equal rights.

    II. Life in Centreville
    A. Mama’s fear of disturbing the status quo
    B. Black fear of Klan activity and police brutality
    C. The taboo topic of civil rights in Anne’s school and home
    D. Violence against or objectification of black women by whites
    E. Questioning why blacks don’t get angry about their treatment

    III. Experiences in the civil rights movement
    A. Blacks’ resistance to the CORE drive to secure a black vote
    B. Teens’ adoption versus adults’ fear of the civil rights movement
    C. Black satisfaction with life in New Orleans or large cities that are “less racist” than country towns
    D. Mama and Adline’s letters urging Anne to stop campaigning
    E. Fear or despair resulting from murders of civil rights leaders as a disincentive to participate in civil rights: Medgar Evers, Kennedy
    F. Klan black lists

    IV. Conclusion
    A. The problem of internalized fear/victimization is deep-rooted
    B. The younger generation may have more energy and a new attitude—a positive step for the black community

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