Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 3, Chapter 21 : College | Summary

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Summary

Anne's involvement in the Tougaloo NAACP chapter begins with a demonstration in the Mississippi city of Jackson. Civil rights activist Medgar Evers gives a rousing speech on campus. Several students are arrested during the demonstration, and their fellow NAACP members bail them out. The bailout turns into a rally at a football field. By the end of the night "all the students were ready to tear Jackson to pieces." Evers returns to campus to give the students a "pep talk" and prepare them for more demonstrations.

Anne becomes so active with the NAACP her grades plummet. She's running out of money and forced to write home for funds. Raymond won't allow Mama to send Anne money. Emma sends Anne enough for the spring term, and she gets a partial scholarship to summer school.

During the summer Anne meets a white student named Joan Trumpauer who works for an organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. Anne gets involved with the SNCC and travels to the Delta region for their voter registration drive along with fellow volunteers Bettye Poole and Carolyn Quinn. She meets Bob Moses, the respected SNCC director who students think is "Jesus Christ in the flesh."

The student SNCC workers get along well and enjoy themselves out on the town. But they're always aware of the threat of violence. The boys sleep in their clothes so they'll "be ready to run anytime." When they travel to the Greenville office they discover it's been bombed.

The voter registration drives and rallies don't have great success. Many black people are afraid to attend. Anne says they've been so "brain-washed ... they really thought that only whites were supposed to vote." The SNCC workers speak in churches to reach more people. Even those who want to vote risk losing their jobs and their homes. SNCC asks Northern college campuses to send food, clothing, and money to anyone who's affected. Even if black Delta residents didn't want to vote, they had "friends they could trust." For the first time Anne feels change is possible.

Near the end of the summer Anne and her friend Rose decide to use the white entrance in the bus station. Another black family joins them briefly but leaves when they realize the women are staging a sit-in. They attract a crowd of verbally abusive white people, including an intimidating drunkard. The man at the ticket counter harasses them and they miss several buses. Hours later, sensing the crowd will become violent, Anne and Rose leave. They get a ride back to campus from a black minister who tells them not to "try and sit-in again" without an organization's support.

Analysis

Medgar Evers was the NAACP's first field officer in Mississippi. Anne later says the NAACP wanted to make Evers Mississippi's Martin Luther King Jr. Activist Joan Trumpauer, whom Anne meets in this chapter, is another well-known civil rights activist who had participated in dozens of sit-ins and demonstrations by the time she was 19. Trumpauer and Bettye Poole will continue to do civil rights work alongside Anne.

The SNCC workers are Anne's role models in the movement. They have a friendly, cooperative spirit; they're willing to work long hours for low wages; and they take threats in stride. Anne begins to see what she's up against—a resistant black population, a hostile and armed white population, and family members who cut off financial and emotional support.

Anne knows the civil rights movement won't just need to change the prejudices of white people. More importantly, it will need to change the way black people see themselves. Black Southerners have been "brainwashed" into believing white ideas about their potential. They see themselves as workers who can handle a hoe, not as informed participants in democracy. Though black citizens were legally allowed to vote, local governments used various techniques to keep them from voting, including restrictive voter registration tests. White employers also fired black workers who registered to vote. For farmers losing jobs meant losing housing. The SNCC workers have decades of brainwashing to overcome. But first they need to give black people more options. If their ability to vote doesn't depend on their white employers, will their minds change?

Emboldened by activism, Anne decides to practice what she preaches. When she sits on the white side of the bus station, she sees how even nonviolent direct action can produce a mob. The racist imitations of the women's drunk harasser recall "minstrel shows" where white performers dressed in blackface. The black preacher's kindness and sense of responsibility reassure Anne she has allies. But when the protests become more organized and more visible, the violence will only escalate. Anne knows she's in it for the long haul.

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