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Coming of Age in Mississippi Author’s Biography

In the current world, men and women in pursuit of equality in civil rights have had to undergo several obstacles. In some situations, victims struggling for civil rights are from difficult backgrounds such that they have little or no say against deeds done to them. As a result, they have had to encounter problems such as; racial discrimination, exploitation, violence among others. This has made them develop ways of overcoming these obstacles as they struggle for civil rights. Some of the techniques they use in attacking these obstacles include joining movements and participating in demonstrations and rallies. The above obstacles and the ways used to overcome them are discussed in detail below.

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Discrimination and Struggle for Civil Rights

Discrimination is one of the main obstacles that particular individuals faced during the struggle for civil rights. This is manifested in the following ways: public services and government facilities such as education are divided into two groups, whereby there existed schools for the whites and the African-Americans. This meant that the African-Americans would not attend schools meant for whites, and the white children would never agree to the African-American education institution. The education systems are designed in such a way that quality was better in the schools meant for whites and so were the benefits derived from them.

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Anne Moody’s Childhood Life

Furthermore, the living conditions of the black Americans were substandard compared to those of the whites. During Anne Moody’s childhood life, we find that her family and she lived in a two-room quota on a plantation belonging to their white employer. Further, we find out that none of the quotas that belonged to the blacks who lived in the plantations had either electricity or indoor plumbing. She faced many challenges after college; in the book, chapter 22, it is said, “It no longer seemed important to prove anything. I had found something outside myself that gave meaning to my life” (Quoted from chapter 22). This quote tries to explain how it was difficult for Ann to find a job after college and what influenced her to become a civil activist, a job that earned her nothing although she was facing some financial crisis. Chapter 22 explains how she was interested to get recognized as an activist and what her major target in fighting racism was.

Another obstacle that these individuals who struggled for civil rights faced were exploitation. For instance, the African-Americans were not allowed to take up any white-collar jobs as they were believed to belong to the whites. The blue-collar jobs that were left for them denied them economic opportunities and exposed them to poor working conditions. They were forced to work overtime by their white employers, yet their wages were extremely low. Their children were forced to work equally hard too to assist their parents in making ends meet. As in the case of Anne Moody, she had to work until her last year of high school spending a significant part of her after-school hours doing manual jobs to help put food on the table.

Tenant farming, which entailed renting the land on which one farmed, was another case of exploitation that the African-Americans faced. This is because they were required to pay rent either as a percentage or as a fixed amount of the crop that they harvested. Tenant farming was exploitative since the farmers still had to pay the fixed rent despite unfavorable harvests.

In addition to the above, these individuals also faced continuous violence characterized by persistent threats to them and their families. During her high school, Anne worked for several white families. Some were polite and friendly like the Claiborne’s, who encouraged her to put more effort into her studies, while others like Mrs. Burke were nasty and mean racists who made life difficult for her. For instance, when she realized that her son Wayne was growing close to Anne, she accused her brother of stealing to get back at her.

NAACP, CORE, and FEPC Movement

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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Another act of violence is manifested when a fourteen-year-old African-American boy, coming from Chicago, was murdered in cold blood for supposedly whistling at a white woman. These acts of violence are what made Anne conscious of the racial segregation driving her into joining the civil rights movements such as the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.) This resulted in violent threats sent to her family stating that she is going to be killed when she returns to her city unless she quits the civil rights movements. Further, we find that her brother was beaten up in a move to threaten her more and make her quit the movement.

Moreover, the individuals encountered the problem of disunity among themselves. This disunity came about as a result of some of the blacks being resistant to change because they feared threats and family conflicts, which would arise as a result of being involved in the civil rights movements. For example, when Anne Moody joined the NAACP movement during her college years despite the strong protests of her mother, it resulted in conflicts in her family since they did not understand her growing interest in the civil rights movement. They were afraid of it, especially her mother, who felt that Anne had looked down upon them when she changed her name from Essie Mae to Annie Mae.

These activists came up with various ways of attacking the obstacles they faced. The NAACP movement, for instance, fought for voting and legal rights of the blacks which gave them the right to vote and even take part in political activities. This is realized through continuous mass movements and demands for their requirements in public.

In addition to this, they engaged in non-violent demonstrations and rallies that helped enlighten the African-Americans who were still afraid of standing up for their rights. These non-violent demonstrations mobilized more blacks to fight for their rights, andбц as a result, more volunteers were ready to join the movements, thus making the group bigger and stronger. Although this was a positive move for the blacks, the Vietnam War mentioned towards the end of Moody’s book took a toll on the movements since many young black men and women were recruited from it and formed its base. As such, the war took away the headlines and resources from the fight, therefore incapacitating them.

Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC)

During World War two, there were increasing opportunities for the African-Americans who were able to get white-collar jobs as the war machines demanded soldiers and factory workers. Initially, the blacks who served in the armed forces were kept out of combat and were forced to work in discriminated units. This is because many war plants would not hire them, and if they did, they only hired them as janitors. As the book comes to an end, there is a movement known as Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) which helped change this practice and also helped in uprooting the African-Americans from exploitative employment and ensured that they also were able to get white-collar jobs.

The African-Americans faced the problem of poverty and also suffered at the hands of the whites. The movement, although able to fight for voting rights and legal rights, was not able to end the poverty and suffering of most blacks. Chapter 9 says, ” I had to help secure that plate of dry beans”(Chapter 9); it shows how Ann had some difficulties in working with a racist Mrs. Burke but, since she was poor, she did not have an alternative as her family always depended on her in terms of food. This shows how racism affected black people. This is the sole reason why Anne Moody and her fellow activists decided that relying too much on non-violent demonstrations and rallies would not help solve their problems, and as a result, they stressed the need to put more vitality and vigor back into the movement. This is also the reason why Anne Moody decided to write her book Coming of Age in Mississippi as an activist and not a writer. She wanted to put more emphasis on what they were going through as oppressed blacks and not to bring herself out as just a witness of the racism the blacks were being put through.

Coalition for the Organization of Racial Equality

During her time in college in Tougaloo, we realize that Anne Moody joined a civil rights movement known as the NAACP as an activist while, at the same time, she maintained working with CORE (Coalition for the Organization of Racial Equality) in their rural place. This was also a strategy used by the activists since by forming various groups, people who feel oppressed would join them, therefore increasing their number and hence the impact they would have on the people.

Moreover, these movements staged sit-ins and also took part in public marching through the streets. For instance, Anne Moody, during her last years in college, participated in a sit-in in Mississippi and also took part in a public march in Washington DC in 1963. This strategy is still widely used today since oppressed groups after forming organizations, tend to engage in strikes, go-slows, and even sit-ins that they use to put pressure on the respective ruling body and say the government to look into their wants and needs.

As was during Anne Moody’s times, when the civil rights activists faced threats of violence and were sometimes brutally beaten up, political and civil rights activists in this era also faced violent threats from individuals, police, or even the government officials as they fought for the rights of the oppressed. When we quote from Chapter 4, “They were Negroes and we were also Negroes. I just didn’t see Negroes hating each other so much” (Chapter Four), we witness this as such groups are violently rounded and some imprisoned during such public marching.

Anne Moody: African-American Women, Activist and Writer

Compared to other groups fighting for inequality during this time, Anne Moody comes out as being unique in two significant ways. First and foremost, she is the only student who took part in a sit-in in Mississippi, and secondly, it is because of her autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi. She wrote her book from an activist’s point of view rather than from a writer’s point of view. This way, she acted as a direct voice of the most oppressed African-Americans during that time.

Other civil rights movement activists like Martin Luther King Junior depended too much on non-violent demonstrations and rallies that did not give a helping hand towards relieving the Africans-Americans from racism. As much as it helped them win the civil war and assured them of equal rights under new amendments to the constitution, it did not free them from poverty, suffering, and exploitation. This is the reason why the last chapters of her book emphasize the need to put more vitality and vigor into the movement.

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