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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Part 2: High School, Chapter 12

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2: High School, Chapter 12 of Anne Moody's memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 2, Chapter 12 : High School | Summary



In Baton Rouge Anne takes a job with a poor white woman named Mrs. Jetson, who can only afford to pay her three dollars a day. Soon Mrs. Jetson leaves her home without paying Essie for two weeks of work. She gets a job through a family friend at Ourso's department store. But she's fired after telling a trusted coworker she is 15 and still in high school.

Anne returns to Centreville proud of the money she has earned. After a school friend tells her about black residents who have been "run out of town," Anne longs to leave again. Her family avoids her when she asks more questions about the town's events. Despite her mother's distress, Anne can't be silent anymore when "Negroes are being killed, beaten up, run out of town by ... white folks." She remembers Mrs. Rice's advice to keep busy and take her mind off the killings since no one will do anything about them. Anne decides to stay as busy outside the house as possible until she graduates. Then she'll leave Centreville forever.


Away from home for the first time, Anne begins navigating the adult world. She realizes it is full of all kinds of hazards. Employers defraud her and colleagues betray her. Her employers only think of her as a "pretty little sweet colored girl" and don't see her strength or her humanity.

She's developing a new perspective on wealth. While as a little girl she admired the houses of her and Mama's white employers, now she thinks the Ourso family's wealth is "unfair." Anne sees how long it takes to find a decent job, and how little the Oursos pay their black employees compared to what they can afford, and notices how oppression and poverty are linked. The cynical side observation that "whites didn't think [black people] would live long enough" to enjoy social security benefits indicates how little Anne's life is worth in the eyes of many.

Home is even more stifling. Not only does her family refuse to discuss threats to local black residents, they think Anne only brings up these threats to make them worry. To Anne, as long as black people are silent, the beatings and killings will continue, and no one will be punished. Even respected adults in Anne's life, like Mrs. Rice, tell her nothing will ever change—and she should make the best life for herself possible in the world she has. Anne is still uncertain what she wants, but it is getting harder and harder for her to stay silent.

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