Coming of Age in Mississippi

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Coming of Age In Mississippi: Writing Assignment 2
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age In Mississippi. Third Printing, 1969.
Anne Moody’s autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi the 1940s and 1950s are portrayed through the eyes of Moody. This era was riddled with prejudice and hatred, aimed at African Americans and also found within the African American community. Moody writes about her first-hand experience with these topics and many others. This essay will acknowledge and analyze her observations and experiences with race, gender, and class inequality; it will also analyze the autobiography as a whole.

Early on in the autobiography Moody has her first encounter with race and realizes that there are indeed racial barriers. She and her family had gone to the movies, and Moody had accidentally wandered into the white lobby and proceeded to get scolded by her mother for doing so. “Up until that time I had never really thought about it…I knew we were going to different schools but I never knew why.” (26) Moody, being only a child at this point, decides that what separates the races is their privates. So she plays a game called ‘The Doctor’ with her white friends, but does not find any difference, she says so herself, “I still hadn’t found that secret.” (27) Moody’s reasoning in this particular situation is quite logical, and there is no apparent reason for whites to be better off than blacks. This situation exemplifies that race is merely constructed from the views of society.

A misconceived notion about racism in the 40s and 50s is that it was a one way street. However, that was not often the case. Moody recalls when she was working for a white woman, Mrs. Claiborne, that her mother did not like her. “…I often got the feeling that Mama didn’t like Mrs. Claiborne acting like I was her daughter…I knew for a fact that she didn’t like them treating me like their equal.” (37) This example is one of many that shows how unwilling blacks were to assimilate. It can also be interpreted as how seemingly indifferent blacks were to being treated unequally, and if any sign of equality was present they’d be the first to stop it.

With so much racism and injustice surrounding the African American community, it was only a matter of time before both of those things made their way inside the community. Soon Moody came to realize the hatred within her own community, “…I began to think about Miss Pearl and Raymond’s people and how they hated Mama and for no reason at all than the fact that she was a couple of shades darker…I just didn’t see Negroes hating each other so much.” (47) The wording in this quotation alone shows the gap between races and classes in the black community. Moody uses the word ‘people,’ rather than just their names to refer to Raymond and Pearl because their skin is lighter than hers and her mothers. It is also implied that Raymond’s “people” had a higher social status, although none received any special treatment from the whites or the government. This is another example of a socially constructed racial and class barrier.

Throughout the autobiography Moody is willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Even if it means working for someone she does not want to work for. “I knew that I had to take that job, I had to help secure that plate of dry beans if nothing else.” (99) Working for Mrs. Burke was the last thing Moody wanted to do, but she had been the main provider for her family since a very young age, and she would not let something like Mrs. Burke’s hatred for blacks get in the way of her survival. Moody would not turn a blind eye to Mrs. Burke’s cruelty. When Moody first began work for Mrs. Burke, she was told to enter through the back door (she always came through the front while working for her daughter) but Moody refused to be treated in such a way and was persistent, “Soon Mrs. Burke decided to let me do things my way.” (100) We see this persistent attitude and refusal to do nothing throughout the whole...
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