Coming of Age in Mississippi
Coming of Age in Mississippi: Ann Moody (published 1968)
Reading accurate histories of Mississippi can be a tradeoff between being appropriately reminded—again—of how TERRIBLE things were and constantly seeing Black folk as victims, victims, victims.
Ann Moody—born Essie May Moody—was not a victim. She was a girl then young woman whose clear-sightedness at what was going on in Mississippi in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s made her angry. Angry at hate-filled whites, angry at the violent police, angry at her apathetic neighbors, angry at the Uncle Tom ministers, angry at stupid, unhelpful solutions to the problems. Finally, after the bombing in the Birmingham church, angry, even, at Dr. King’s practice of nonviolence.
I fell in love with Moody’s honesty and courage and smarts and dedication, even as I was cut to pieces by all she had to go through. She and others like her stood up to unrelenting violence and fought overwhelming oppression to tear down a wall of segregation in nothing less than a miracle.
Even so, her memoir ties no bows on a happily-ever-after. She keeps her clear-eyed skepticism to the very end. When the story finishes, she has reached the ripe old age of 23.