Coming of Age in Mississippi

by Anne Moody

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In Coming of Age in Mississippi, what lessons did Anne Moody learn from her mother?

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Anne Moody learns from her mother that she has to be a good girl or she'll be killed by an "evil spirit." The evil spirit in question is white supremacy which manifests itself in brutal lynchings, as in the notorious case of Emmett Till.

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Over time, Anne's relationship with her mother becomes somewhat fraught. The main point of contention is that what Mama wants for her daughter is not what Anne wants for herself. Whereas Toosweet wants Anne to fit in and be like everyone else, Anne is much more ambitious and wants to make a big splash in the world.

Eventually, Anne gets her way, and she sets out on the path that will lead her to become deeply involved in the civil rights movement. But before then, Toosweet endeavors to teach her daughter a number of important lessons that she hopes will stand Anne in good stead.

One such lesson concerns the malevolent activities of an evil spirit that's supposedly lurking around, killing African Americans. In actual fact, the said evil spirit consists of racists and white supremacists who summarily kill any Black person they deem to have stepped out of line. But when Mama starts teaching Anne about the evil spirit, Anne is only a little girl, and so Toosweet doesn't feel that it's appropriate to go into details.

Nevertheless, this turns out to be a very valuable lesson because it makes Anne all too aware of the real and ever-presents dangers that exist in the world outside for African Americans. In invoking the frightening specter of an evil spirit, Toosweet hopes that, at the very least, Anne will be aware of the danger that lurks in the world.

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What were some of the childhood experiences that had a profound impact on Anne Moody, as described in Coming of Age in Mississippi?

In her memoir, Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody discusses some of the pivotal events of her childhood.

When she is a young girl, Moody’s father has an extramarital affair while her mother is pregnant with her brother. Her life and family are uprooted when her parents go their separate ways.

By the young age of nine, Moody is already expected to make a financial contribution to her family. She does not get to enjoy a typical childhood because she is burdened with adult responsibilities very early in her life. When her family loses their farm, she must work even harder to help make ends meet.

Moody’s mother gets remarried to a man named Raymond, who has a sister named Darlene. Darlene and Moody are close in age and do not get along well.

In her freshman year of high school, Moody learns about the horrors of racism. A Black teenage boy named Emmett is brutally murdered for whistling at a White woman. This has a huge impact on Moody, who is eager to learn more about race relations, Emmett’s murder, and the NAACP.

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