Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 4, Chapter 27 : The Movement | Summary

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Summary

Anne goes to New Orleans to stay with Winnie, who won't take her in. Anne knows Winnie is scared of receiving threats because of Anne's civil rights work. Instead Anne goes to her Uncle George Lee's home, where Adline is staying.

She returns to Maple Hill to get her old job back. Even with a college education, there aren't many jobs open to her except teaching in "awful, segregated, inferior Uncle Tom schools." She and Adline pool their money and rent a small apartment.

Mama and Anne's younger siblings visit. Anne doesn't know what to say to Mama; she defends herself against Adline's accusations she's "crazy" and Mama's insistence she's doing nothing with her degree. Anne feels she doesn't have much in common with her family. She could never let go of her rage and discontent the way they have. She wants to return to the movement where people understand her, but thinks she should be "involved in some different way that I could not yet define."

In November Anne's at work when she hears President Kennedy's been shot. James says "Anne, there goes your civil rights." She knows he's right—Kennedy provided many black people hope for "Real Freedom." Anne feels like screaming at the white restaurant guests and calling them murderers. She wants to escape the evil in the world.

Analysis

The lingering question of whether or not Anne will reconcile with her family is finally answered in this chapter. Who will betray her? Who will stand by her? Will anyone join her? Anne's family relationships will never be the same, and some of her frustrations will never be fully aired. Anne's mother's birthday party ends on an uncertain note. There will be no warm reunion or peace between her and her family, at least not yet.

She faces the common question of how to relate to family members once she's no longer the child they grew up with. Her once-loyal Grandma Winnie, transformed by fear, gives her a cold reception. Meanwhile the once-treacherous George Lee, more stable than Winnie as a married man, can shelter Anne and form an adult relationship with her. Mama is stuck in the past, still having babies. Adline is navigating her own adulthood and ignoring the real threats Anne sees. Only Junior shows a restlessness Anne can relate to.

But her most complicated relationship has always been with Mama. Anne wonders what she owes her mother—Conversation? Forgiveness? A job her mother can understand, like teaching, to prove the value of her degree? Anne finally determines she owes Mama nothing. In order to truly release herself from the past, she has to leave Mama behind.

The restaurant workers are a younger crowd, more receptive to social change and more appreciative of the work Anne does. Louisiana tended to be more accommodating to civil rights than other states in the Deep South like Mississippi or Alabama. But when Anne considers her opportunities outside of the movement, she's still not thrilled. Everything available to her seems like a form of servitude, a way to be Uncle Tom.

The civil rights movement has changed the lens through which Anne sees the world. She now wonders how others can be so complacent and blind to the obvious. Black people don't see their true worries should go far beyond daily threats—they should worry about the future. White people don't see how they're complicit in Kennedy's assassination. They created Southern segregation and a culture of violence, empowering assassins and ensuring white leaders would rarely be as sympathetic to civil rights as Kennedy was. And they remain in power.

Real change seems like even more of an impossibility. With the future as murky as it has ever been, how will Anne proceed?

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