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Coming of Age in Mississippi

This study will examine Anne Moody's autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi in order to determine how the author's experiences transformed her faith in the civil rights movement's ability to extend democracy to all Americans. Comparing the consciousness of the author at the beginning of the book and at the end certainly reveals to the reader a radical transformation with respect to her hope about changing her own life and/or the life of the nation in terms of race relations.

Although the book takes place in the 1940s through the 1960s, the first line of the book reflects conditions which resemble outright slavery: "I'm still haunted by dreams of the time we lived on Mr. Carter's plantation" (11). By the end of the book, Moody has come to a realistic optimism. She can hardly be said to be a starry-eyed idealist, but certainly she has found hope where once she felt only despair. She has experienced enough bigotry and rage and disappointment and fear that she is no longer capable of the kind of innocent hopefulness expressed by Gene at the end of the book, but her "wonder" about their possible success in changing society still remains: "I wonder. I wonder. 'We shall overcome, We shall overcome/ We shall overcome some day.' I wonder. I really wonder" (384).

Certainly part of Moody's "wondering" about the future of the movement and its likely success is a calculated effort to not give the reader a sense of complacency. She is likely more exhausted than on the verge of giving up hope. She knows how hard she and her fellow civil rights workers have worked to get as far as they are, and she knows that each step of the struggle for racial justice and dignity will be increasingly difficult. The reader should see her cautious hope at the end of the book in the context of her whole life story. That story has brought her from despair to such cautious hope, but it is not the story of one woman who has perhaps become burned out by her su...

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Coming of Age in Mississippi. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:57, August 03, 2020, from