Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 4, Chapter 28 : The Movement | Summary

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Summary

Anne realizes she needs to return to the movement. She joins the New Orleans chapter of CORE. Black Louisiana residents are just as hard to persuade to vote, but white and black civil rights workers can canvass together there.

One night Junior, who's also working in New Orleans, tells Anne and Adline Emma's brother Clift was shot. Adline cries and wants to leave the country. "The killings were getting closer," Anne thinks, and now her family's more concerned than ever. Anne writes a letter to Emma and says Bob Moses, the SNCC director, will investigate Clift's death as well as three other killings in Woodville. As the spring comes Anne decides to go back to Mississippi "where the Negroes weren't laughing all the time." Emma replies with information about Clift's murder, and Anne feels helpless—she realizes how little she can do.

Anne returns to Tougaloo for her college graduation. Adline says she might come, which reassures Anne someone in the family still cares. At Tougaloo Ed King reminds her it is the one-year anniversary of the Woolworth's sit-in. The students attempt another sit-in on the anniversary but call it off because of poor timing.

The Mississippi movement is preparing for the Summer Project, which will set up Freedom Schools to teach academic and vocational subjects and continue voter registration. Anne's excited for the initiative and feels something might be accomplished for once. She discusses the Mississippi killings with Moses, who says they're probably "terror killings" to intimidate black people and civil rights workers. One of the victims was Louis Allen, a black man who testified against a white murderer in 1961 despite community pressure to cover up the murder. Anne's angry the federal government won't protect its black American citizens.

Analysis

In Louisiana contentment, not fear, is the problem. Black happiness in New Orleans proves to be just as much of an obstacle as black terror in Mississippi. When no one sees the need for change, Anne can't get them to vote.

But change is coming anyway at a radical pace. Death finally visits Anne's family as she feared it would. Black people like James and Adline talk openly and earnestly about leaving the country. Anne's family members have asked her not to contact them. When she writes to Emma, she tells the truth and doesn't give her false hope. The murders may be investigated, but the cycle will begin again and more black people will die. As a reminder of persistent historical patterns, on the anniversary of the Woolworth's sit-in, last year's stains still remain in the car.

The truth about the "terror killings" shows how little progress has been made. The Justice Department failed to protect victim Louis Allen, instead protecting murderers in the Mississippi legislature and silencing Allen for telling the truth. Anne's theory in Canton has been proven. No matter how much work black people can get done themselves, the federal government will continue to fail them. Despite legislation supposedly making them free, black people aren't seen as equal citizens in the eyes of the law.

As usual Anne gets just enough hope to keep her going. She engages in a process always meaningful to her—dressing up for a special occasion. Adline and Junior care about her graduation, and even though Adline's not quite on board, Junior knows about the activism of groups like CORE and hopes they can make a change in the South. The Mississippi Summer Project shows the community working together for its own improvement. And the project may just provide the most essential change of all: empowering black people through education and jobs. She senses the power of black communities when she hears the state police force and legislature are already armed for conflict. This time the white authorities fear black community organizers, not the other way around.

Anne now has a community in Canton she can return to, and an adopted family she is excited to be a part of. As her dream reveals at the end of the chapter, she has become entwined with the movement despite herself. Her sense of purpose has returned.

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