Anne Moody’s monograph, Coming to Age, is a narration of howshe grew up in Mississippi. She takes the reader throughthe event of her life as she grew up as a poor AfricanAmerican girl, telling about her journey through harsh beginningsfrom a rather tender age.1Through the monograph, she explains how she eventually grew intobecoming an active member of the Civil Rights Movement. Throughoutthe four major division of the monograph, sheshows how she “came of age” in each section, and theexperiences that she went through that had a significant effect onher enlightenment. The monograph looks at the importance of the CivilRights Movement in those times, by speaking about how the AfricanAmericans were affected in terms of economic, social and politicaldevelopment. The struggle that facilitated the Civil Rights Movementwas prove that during this period, America was in a stage of culturalchange and growth of ideologies that would shape its future. AnneMoody documents the social and ideological development that was goingon during this period. This paper is an analysis of the monologuethat describes Anne Moody’s experience and shows that America, atthe time, was a social and ideological battleground.
During the time of writing the monograph, America was involved inphysical combat far away in Asia. This war was one of thehighlighting events of the internal conflict between the BlackAmericans and the whites. Many Black Americans, including somenotable figures such as Muhammad Ali, made a decision of not fightingin the war, defending their actions that no Asian had called them a‘nigga’, a colloquial terms for Black people.The controversy arose from the Americans saying that they werefighting for democracy in Asia, while on the other hand, quiteironically, they had denied the black people democracy right in theirbackyard. The black people, motivated by the rising ideologicalfigures such as Muhammad Ali, and Civil Rights Society activists suchas Martin Luther King, Jr. chose not to side with their countrymen.The Black Americans came out saying that their only crime was beingblack, which was the reason that the Whites were depriving them oftheir civil rights.2Anne Moody comes out clearly saying that the Civil Rights Movementwas out there not only to defend the rights of the Black people, butalso to bring a sweep of brand new ideology.3This ideology was not to be achieved that easily, as the black peoplepaid dearly by standing their ground on the issue. At times, thisstand was so firm that it warranted physical aggression from theWhite-led authorities, who disperse crowds and demonstration by usingbrutal force.
Back in her home state, Mississippi, Anne Moody gives accounts of howher fellow black men were frustrated by the Whites.4Several other accounts are used to describe how a number of eventsacted as turning points for a life, which reflect the title of themonograph, Coming of Age. In her childhood days, Anne saysthat racism was so widespread that it was not a thing to read aboutonly in the newspapers. She had experienced racism first hand, andhad seen how bad the Whites treated the blacks. It was so bad thatshe describes Mississippi as an “insidious cancer”, which wasalmost next to impossible to escape.5She, including her childhood friends, had a bad experience that theyat some points in their lives thought that they would never developan intellectual comprehension of what was going on. This means thatother Black Americans too, at this moment, were lost in anideological and intellectual quagmire. The state of their lives was areflection of the civil injustices that were being instigated by theWhites. For instance, Anne says that she did not understand why otherhomes had amenities such as indoor toilets, while the BlackAmericans’ homes were deprived of the same. The emotional upheavalswere so bad that despite the fact that Anne had made her parentsproud by securing a college scholarship, she never thought of beinglike everyone else. Perhaps what made her feelings worse is that shecould not understand why her family, a hardworking middleclassfamily, would attempt to assimilate into the white people’s livingstyle. Rockquemore and Arend say that some Blacks had decided to giveup the fight against racism during this period, opting to assimilateinto the White people’s culture.6This included changing their lifestyles, the way they dressed, theirhair, and even giving up their indigenous names and taking Whitenames. Her dislike of her family’s adoption of the White people’sculture left her alienated. Her family could not understand why shewas so eager to volunteer in engaging in the Civil Rights Movement’sactivities, such as public protests. However, the acts of oppressionagainst the black men in Mississippi were what that drove herambition to fight for recognition of the rights of the black people.
During her times, the Mississippi authorities had little regard forthe rights of the Black people. Hing says that there was avigilante-inspired justice system, where the authorities and othercivilians hunted and executed black people, especially those with ahard stance against racism.7In the courts, the judges would prosecute the black men withoutgiving them a chance to defend themselves. The worst situation,however, was acrime committed against a White person. Some of the cases were soridiculous that they inspired more anger amongst the activists. Forinstance, Anne Moody describes how a young boy had been hanged by thealleged crime of whistling at a white woman.8This was one of the events that highlighted her “coming of age”.She decided that enough was enough, and could no longer stay mum.This was so infuriating that she blamed her fellow Black people ofnot standing against the injustices. In order to make the change, shedecided to officially join and vocally support the Civil RightsMovement. It was at this point that she began being involved with thelikes of Martin Luther King, Jr. who were prominent members.
Dr, King was one of the key figures in defining America as a socialand ideological background during this time, because he was a vocalsupporter of the Civil Rights Movement.9He was an outspoken member of the Civil Rights Movement, which wasout to define the state and country’s tumultuous social climate.Jackson asserts that the youthful idealism which was wholeheartedlyembracing the Civil Rights Movement was a thing to reckon with,especially when it came to ideology.10To demonstrate this fact, the members of the movement themselvesbegan dividing, as each had their own ideology that they firmly stoodwith. For instance, Anne Moody eventually began becoming discontentedwith the approach taken by other members, including Marin LutherKing, Jr. While Dr. King’s ideology suggested a non-violentapproach, others, including Anne Moody and Malcom X, thought that thesuccess of the movement would only be through violence. To add tothis, Anne Moody thought that failing to fight back against theoppressor would only be a show of weakness. As such, the two factionshad different ideological perceptions, and none thought that theothers’ would work well. Anne Moody’s story is only part of whatwas going on across the entire nation during the Civil RightsMovement, which despite its success in the later years, had definedAmerica as a social and ideological battleground during this time.
Coming of Age conveys the social and ideological state ofAmerica during the times of the Civil Rights Movement. The blacks hadfor a long time suffered under their oppressors, the White majority.Through tribulations, first hand experiences and witnessing ofsuffering of the Black people, Anne Moody’s is an account of howthe Black people suffered in the state of Mississippi and the entirecountry. While others opted to give up the fight for their freedomand rights, many, like Anne Moody, sought liberty by conscience. Thisled to many black people joining the Civil Rights Movement, which wasitself a conscience-driven movement for liberty. However, there weremany ideological differences that defined the members’ approach,leading to the emergence of distinct factions. Through the monograph,Anne Moody describes how America, during the Civil Rights Movement,was a social and ideological battleground.
Berkin, Carol, Miller Christopher, Robert Cherny and James Gormly.Making America: A History of the United States. CengageLearning, 2010.
Hing, BillOng. "Vigilante racism: The de-Americanization of immigrantAmerica." MichiganJournal of Race and Law 7(2002).
Jackson,Thomas F. FromCivil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and theStruggle for Economic Justice.Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age. London, UK: Random HousePublishing Group, 2011.
Rockquemore,Kerry Ann, and Patricia Arend. "Opting for White: Choice,Fluidity and Racial Identity Construction in Post-Civil RightsAmerica." Raceand Society5,no. 1 (2002): 49-64.
1 Carol Berkin, Miller Christopher, Robert Cherny and James Gormly, Making America: A History of the United States, (Cengage Learning, 2010), 5.
2 Thomas Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 47.
3 Berkin, Christopher and Cherny, 78.
4 Anne Moody, Coming of Age (London, UK: Random House Publishing Group, 2011),68.
5 Moody, 70.
6 Kerry Anne Rockquemore and Patricia Arend, “Opting for White: Choice, Fluidity and Racial Identity Construction in Post-Rights America,” Race and Society 5(1) (2002): 50.
7 Bill Ong Hing, “Vigilante Racism: The De-Americanization of Immigrant America,” Michigan Journal of Race and Law 7 (2002): 3.
8 Moody, 25.
9 Jackson, 58.
10 Jackson, 87.