Anne Moody’s autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi is best described as an existence of fighting. From the very first traumatic memory she records, being beaten and framed for arson by her terrible uncle, Moody brings violence and hardship to her story without even trying. From a simple beginning in Mississippi, including an unfaithful father, an emotionally tortured and fragile mother, and too many children to feed on the family’s budget, Moody is always struggling. She finally makes it out of her small town life to work as an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement, primarily through the NAACP and SNCC. While I found her work inspiring, I was most impressed and connected on a much more personal level to the immense personal transformations that Moody underwent to get from a poor black girl in Mississippi, who was mishandled and mistreated by her white employers and deeply affected by the violence towards those around her, to someone who could stare white hatred head-on and barely even balk.
In the beginning, Anne Moody was always afraid. She took things as they came, questioning them internally and struggling with the injustices around her, but rarely took occasion to speak up against what was done to her. After Mrs. Jetson claimed she was unable to pay Essie Mae for her work that week, and said she would have to pay her the next week, Moody describes her reaction by saying: “I stood there looking and feeling like a stupid fool. I didn’t say anything, though. I just left” (140). Essie Mae is similarly dumbfounded but does not speak up when Linda Jean cuts her pay in half. However, just a few short years later, Moody participates in of the first sit-ins at a White-only lunch counter and faces volatile racism head-on. Changed by the violence she witnessed, Moody was forced to put an ice cold front and pushed through the uncertainties with seeming indifference: “I waited to hear from her again. And I waited to hear in the news that someone in Centreville had been murdered. If so, I knew it would be a member of my family” (269). More than anything, Moody becomes changed by the violence she experiences by learning to channel it into a rock-hard exterior, one that cannot be broken down by hateful words or hateful actions.