A Critique of Anne Moody’s Quest: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Sam cried, in response to his father’s demands, “I’ll die fo I go back into that field! I don’t wanna burn in the sun fo anotha day!” Sam spent day in and day out with his family working in the fields in a desperate attempt to salvage crops for cash. In a family of ten, food was demanded, sought, and earned on a monotonous daily basis and any extra cash was saved to buy clothes for the younger children. Sam, only six years old, faced the same fate that many other black children faced growing up in the brutal South. Black families everywhere experienced tribulations regarding economic stability, shelter, and fear from the overwhelming majority of white animosity.
Although blacks were emerging from the late nineteenth century “nadir”, throughout the twentieth century the South became a structured society through a hierarchical racial order with black Americans at the bottom of the totem pole socially, economically, and politically. One African American from the South in particular, who endured a similar fate as Sam, recorded, recollected, and relived her life growing up poor and black in the rural south. Through her autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody accurately depicts the constant battle of social, economic, and political adversities especially during the years 1945 through 1965.
When Anne was four years old, she lived with her mom, Toosweet, dad, Diddly, and little sister, Aldine, in a two-bedroom shack rid of electricity and indoor pluming on a plantation in Mississippi. During the day, both of Anne’s parents would be gone working on the plantation and Toosweet’s younger brother would watch over the children. Many relatives of the family including aunts, uncles, great aunts, and cousins all lived nearby or on the plantation so their family would be considered an extended family in which Diddly was viewed as the patriarch; however, eventually Diddly leaves the family to pursue an affair with a lighter-skinned black woman forcing Toosweet to tackle the matriarchal role head-on. The family began to fall apart as Toosweet had another child while they moved house-to-house and job-to-job including being a maid for white families. This left the family constantly hungry, often eating nothing but beans, bread, and scraps when times were progressively getting worse. “Sometimes Mama would bring us the white family’s leftovers…They had all kinds of different food with meat and all. We always had just beans and bread” (Moody 29).
Constant fighting for food and shelter was not the only problems Anne faced growing up; schools in Mississippi were unfortunately more than subpar. Jim Crow laws were heavily enforced in Mississippi and throughout the deep South – public facilities including transportation, restaurants, water fountains and bathrooms, and especially schools were very segregated. Although Jim Crow laws mandated a “separate but equal” status within these facilities, it was not the case. Black schools did not receive as much money, were not as abundant, and had little to no textbooks. If they did manage to have textbooks they were old, handed-down books from white schools. There was such an insignificant amount of black schools available in Mississippi that when Anne started school she would have to walk miles there and back everyday where she witnessed her classmates get beat for ridiculous accidents. “The school was a little one-room rotten wood building…We were cold all day. That little rotten building had big cracks in it, and the heater was just too small” (14). Similarly, most black schools in the South were rotten and filthy – often having sagging, leaking roofs and windows without glass - and were over-crowded with little desks to compensate the amount of students. In addition to these horrendous conditions of black schools in the South, the teachers were often under-trained and scarce...
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