Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

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Quotes

One of the themes of the book is Moody's development of a sense of racial injustice and her awareness of how fraught race relations in the deep South are. After Emmett Till is murdered, Moody's mother tells her to act around white people like nothing happened. Moody's white employer, Mrs. Burke, warns Moody (then known as Essie Mae) that Emmett Till was killed because he "got out of his place with a white woman" (page 132). Moody writes:

"Before Emmett Till's murder, I had known the fear of hunger, hell, and the Devil. But now there was a new fear known to me--the fear of being killed just because I was black" (page 132).
Moody develops a sense of fear and a sense of how unjust people like Mrs. Burke are, and she also develops a greater willingness to challenge people like Mrs. Burke. However, when Moody asks her mother about the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), her mother warns her, "Don't you ever mention that word around Mrs. Burke or no other white person, you heah!" (page 133). Her mother has been cowed into going along with the status quo because of the fear she feels about being retaliated against if she pursues voting or other rights.
 
Moody later becomes disenchanted with the male leaders of the Civil Rights movement, which is another theme of the book. After she and a group of ministers are arrested, she writes, "Some of them looked so pitiful, I thought they would cry any minute, and here they were, supposed to be our leaders" (page 296). She writes of listening to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech:
“I sat on the grass and listened to the speakers, to discover we had 'dreamers' instead of leaders leading us.... Martin Luther King went on and on talking about his dream. I sat there thinking that in Canton we never had time to sleep, much less dream" (page 335).

She feels that the difficulty of the movement is so great in places like...

(The entire section is 511 words.)