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.

Ann Moody, Civil Rights in Mississippi, Coming of Age in Mississippi, Mississippi memoirs, The Civil Rights Movement

Comments (4)

  • We agree about this incredible memoir. I used it in the basic US history classes I taught. Some of the students were surprised at the depth of anger, but most appreciated the call for justice that is at the core of the book. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of this book

  • this is such a great book – I used excerpts in my WriteMemphis writing workshops with inner-city teen girls. Their life experiences were not as vast Moody’s (since their ages were 12-15), so they were very shocked at some of Moody’s words about her own experience. Made for deep discussions as they mined their own pain and anger.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      That is so interesting. Also interesting: my mother lived in Centreville part of the same time Moody did….

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