Anne Moody Civil Rights Movement

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2021/06/10
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Words:  2048
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In Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi, many life experiences led her to eventually commit herself to the civil rights movement. Due to the environment Anne grew up in, the mix of her home life, and events that were occurring all around her at the time, Anne was bound to see civil rights as important and dedicate herself to this struggle. Anne struggled to understand the inequity among races growing up so when she finally started to be more directly involved with the racism around her, it intrigued her more than the average person who just saw it as the way life is or as something that was never going to change. There were many events that led her to dedicate her life to the civil rights movement including her first jobs, the deaths happening around her, and her mother’s unsupportiveness.

The first event that seems to explain Anne’s interest in the civil rights struggle was her employment and her experiences in her first jobs. She worked as a maid for white families. She had both good and bad experiences when working as a maid. I think the good experiences kept Anne in the dark about what was really going on around her. I think that she didn’t really see herself as different and I don’t think she realized that others saw her as different either. Many families were welcoming, including the Claibornes. This was one of Anne’s first jobs. She was welcome for dinner and she would even sleep in Mrs. Claiborne’s bed. Because of this, Anne definitely didn’t know or understand that the world was so segregated at first.

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Mrs. Claiborne treated Anne as if she were her own child which was such a rarity during this time period. Anne probably just assumed all white families were like this and would treat her no different. Later on in the book, Anne moves in with her father and when she asked his new wife if she could get a bed like Mrs. Claiborne’s, with a canopy, his new wife was offended. This showed that Anne still wasn’t perfectly clear on the difference that stood between her and the white families. Although some white families were welcoming, others were not. Mrs. Burke, on the other hand, was extremely racist and tried to make Anne’s life difficult. Mrs. Burke was not so friendly with Anne, but she also wasn’t awful at first.

Some time into Anne working for Mrs. Burke, she discovered that Anne was really good at math and asked her to tutor her son Wayne and some of his friends for extra pay. Anne jumped at this opportunity. She became friends with these kids, even though they were a different race than her, and really enjoyed helping them and gaining these friendships. Wayne took a special liking to Anne and he started to show that he was interested and his mother did not like this at all. She wouldn’t allow Anne to tutor him and started treating her more poorly. She even asked Anne one time if she would enjoy going to school with Wayne, hoping that she would say no because that’s what she wanted to hear. When Anne didn’t give her the right answer she got extremely offended and Anne could tell she wasn’t happy with her answer.

This experience showed Anne that not all white families were respectful towards black people during this time and I think this is when Anne first began to see this. The fact that Mrs. Burke’s son was nice to Anne, and actually started to gain feelings for her, and that Mrs. Burke was the complete opposite really proved to Anne that these feelings some white people had against black people were not right and didn’t make that much sense. Later on Anne started to work for one of Mrs. Burke’s friends. During work one day she saw Wayne and they started chatting. Both Wayne and Anne caught on that her new boss was spying and Wayne chose to walk away because he didn’t want anything bad to happen to Anne. These early jobs were one of the first experiences that actually affected Anne directly and opened her eyes a little to the terrible world around her.

A second event that seemed to explain Anne’s interest in civil rights were the deaths happening all around her during this time. First was the murder of Emmett Till, a fifteen year old black boy visiting from Chicago who was accused of whistling at a white woman, and murdered for it. Anne had heard about this and had tried asking her mother about it, but her mother got mad when she started asking questions. Anne’s mother told her to go to work for Mrs. Burke that day like she didn’t know about this murder, but this was the first time Anne had heard of a death like this. She tried to act normal, but she just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Mrs. Burke asked Anne if she knew about the murder and then continued to explain how Emmett Till was disrespectful and “it’s a shame he had to die so soon,” basically saying that he deserved it (Moody, 132). This death, especially the way Mrs. Burke talked about it, was definitely eye opening to Anne about what was really going on around her and how some white people really felt about black people. The fact that he was only fifteen, a year older than Anne, definitely caught her attention. A fifteen year old who doesn’t know any better and is still learning was murdered by people much older than him that should understand that he is still young and doesn’t know any better. Next, another near death encounter took place. A boy named Jerry was accused of making inappropriate phone calls to a white operator and threatening to molest her. A group of white men nearly beat him to death.

This event hit a little closer to home for Anne because this boy happened to be one of her classmates and she was able to talk to him about what happened and he told her the whole story. Hearing this first hand from one of her peers definitely made her feel more scared, thinking something like that could happen to anyone, even her. A third event was when the Taplin family was burned to death. Anne was awaken in the middle of the night by screaming going on outside her home. Anne, her mother, and her mother’s boyfriend Raymond got in the car and drove to see what all the hollering was about. This would be an unforgettable experience for Anne because this was something she saw with her own eyes, “I shall never forget the expressions on the faces of the Negroes. There was almost unanimous hopelessness in them” (Moody, 143). It was said that the fire was started by a kerosene lamp, but nobody bought the story. I think at this point, after seeing so much that had been happening, Anne really started to understand all of the racism that was taking place in the world around her.

Later on, Samuel O’Quinn was shot and killed for being a member of the NAACP; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This brought back memories to Anne of all the past indecencies that had happened around her. This also showed how cruel people really were. Just because a man was part of an organization to benefit himself and others like him, he was killed. This was a huge turning point for Anne and the point when she really started to decide that she wanted to help these people around her, including herself, that were getting treated unfairly and being killed just for being a different race. Although these events did not directly involve Anne, they definitely affected her. These were huge experiences that happened so close to her. The intensity of this, and the fact that it really happened and all this racism nonsense is not just talk, really opened Anne’s eyes to the seriousness of this problem.

A third event that I think really pushed Anne was that her mother was not supportive about how Anne wanted to be a part of this struggle and help change it. Anne was always good at everything she did, like school and church, and her mother liked Anne to look good because it in turn made her look good. Her siblings were not like her so her mother was always expecting her to pick up the slack and make sure Anne was on her best behavior. Raymond’s family was lighter skinned than Anne’s mother so they always thought they were better than Anne’s mother. They were never friendly with her and would not acknowledge that she even existed.

That is why Anne’s mother expected so much from Anne. She wanted her daughter to look good so that she would look good and that maybe someday they would accept her. She didn’t like feeling so left out. In school, her mother wanted Anne to do better than the other students because she knew she could. In church, her mother wanted her to have a part where she would speak and stand out from the rest of the kids, and she did it well. Her mother wanted her to join her church and not Raymond’s family’s church. Even though Anne liked Raymond’s and wanted to be a part of that church, she did what her mother said, but not without putting up a fight. Her mother was always expecting the best from Anne. I think that ended up making Anne into the kind of person who wanted to keep excelling in everything she did.

This probably contributed to her need to help with the civil rights movement because she was just used to the lifestyle of always being the best she could in every aspect in life. I also think Anne’s mother pushed Anne away because being around her mother she always had to be perfect and it was stressful. As Anne got older, she turned into a very attractive girl and all of the boys became extremely interested and the girls wanted to be like her. Even Raymond started to look at Anne differently and started to get mad at her all the time for no reason. This eventually caused Anne to leave home and move in with her father. Her mother was upset, but she didn’t exactly side with Anne either and I think this probably hurt Anne’s feelings when her mother didn’t even side with her.

Anne was completely in the right for feeling uncomfortable and getting in an argument with her mother’s boyfriend causing her to want to leave home. I think that the events around her made her more aware of the injustices and the seriousness of it all. The biggest factor though was that when she wanted to step up and start fighting for these people, herself included, her mother shut her out and that only made her want to fight harder. Throughout Anne’s life, she was always so curious about everything and every time she would try and ask her mom questions, her mother would get upset and not inform her. This only made Anne more curious and she would find other ways to learn about the world around her.

All in all, the environment Anne grew up in, the way she was raised and the events happening around her everyday, led to her dedication to the civil rights movement. Her first jobs and the way her bosses treated her, the deaths and brutalities happening all around her, and her mother’s attitude and unsupportiveness were all huge factors that contributed to this commitment. Anne had the right personality and drive to commit herself to something as big as the civil rights movement. The events and experiences she had growing up just pushed her even further and molded her into someone who was destined to make this world a better and more equal place. 

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Anne Moody Civil Rights Movement. (2021, Jun 10). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/anne-moody-civil-rights-movement/

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