Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 4, Chapter 24 : The Movement | Summary

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Summary

Anne rides to the August 28 March on Washington with white and black movement members, nervous about traveling in an integrated car. Thousands of people march to the Lincoln Memorial with signs and a casket saying "Bury Jim Crow." Anne notices several national movement leaders, including Rev. Martin Luther King, discussing dreams. They don't have time to dream in Canton, she reflects. They can barely sleep. She thinks "the people were better off leading themselves."

On the way back Anne's group stops at a Tennessee campground, hoping their integrated group will face less trouble on federal land. Two white women notice Joan, a white civil rights worker, and Anne together. The women look for the group's car, thinking the civil rights workers are "professional agitators." Anne's group drops her off in Canton and drives quickly out of town for their own safety.

Analysis

The summer of 1963 was a defining one for the civil rights movement. The year saw more activists than ever join the 20th-century's largest organized movement for racial reform. The demand for civil rights was growing beyond student activism and sit-ins. It was a force the country had to reckon with.

But Anne doesn't think the movement's perfect. The adult leaders tend to dream in grand abstractions. Dr. King's famous speech focuses, to Anne, on the wrong talking points. The dream can only be accomplished by the unglamorous work on the ground. Despite Anne's critique of the leadership, she notices the impact of the march in sheer numbers, and sees how strong the desire for freedom truly is.

Her travel experience throws the differences between the Deep South and other states into sharp relief. In Alabama and Mississippi she's constantly surrounded by "fear and threats," but in other states she can breathe more easily. She's growing more comfortable in her position as a known activist. The bewilderment of the white women at the campground, who don't know what to think of a mixed-race group of travelers, is treated with dark humor. Anne takes pride in being seen as an "agitator." She's used to it by now. She and her companions, however, are constantly thinking about possible danger. Moody reminds us even the white civil rights workers were at risk because of their association with the movement.

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