Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Course Hero, "Coming of Age in Mississippi Study Guide," October 16, 2017, accessed December 17, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Coming-of-Age-in-Mississippi/.

Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 4, Chapter 29 : The Movement | Summary

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Summary

Anne is welcomed back to the Canton Freedom House in May 1964. She immediately begins preparing for a march. Anne is astonished by the number of adults attending the march, and moved when they begin singing the spiritual "Oh, Freedom." She thinks the older black marchers hope in heaven, while the younger activists know "the power to change things was in themselves." Her hope returns.

During a march to the courthouse, two cops harass teenage activists with racial slurs. The confrontation escalates, and the cops beat a young male activist so badly the crowd thinks he's dead. The emotional protesters gather to discuss what to do, and several volunteer to march to the jail and risk arrest. An elderly man leads the march and stands up bravely to the cops. The beaten young activist, McKinley, survives. But soon Ed King and a group of CORE activists report police violence on a car trip.

Anne participates in Tougaloo's graduation ceremony. She feels lonely without her family, and she's not sure what will come next for her. Anne, Memphis, and Joan, the "three Woolworth's orphans" without families at graduation, eat dinner at Ed King's house. Anne realizes how much she's come to respect the white minister. She plans to work with the civil rights umbrella organization COFO in the summer. Anne goes back to New Orleans, where Adline surprises her with a new dress. Adline also says she may get a college diploma, too.

Analysis

The song led by Reverend Cox at the march recalls a similar scene when a song spurred Anne to a new realization about the culture of Mississippi: the Part 1, Chapter 8 singing of "Old Folks at Home" or "Swanee River." In both instances the singers bond through the song's connection to a communal past. But in this chapter Anne sees how despite the brainwashing of white supremacy and the conditioning which once seemed so strong, many older black adults have signed on to the movement. They value the chance for freedom after all.

Music was a capstone of the civil rights movement, which has been described as "one of the greatest singing movements" in America. Protest songs, often based on black spirituals, provided crowds a way to unify in moments of stress and celebration. "Oh Freedom" was a common civil rights protest song. The references to release from lynching and slavery recall brutal images associated with the antebellum South. This time the images are set in an empowering context. The black singers are reclaiming the South for themselves. The cadence of Anne's phrase "singing, suffering, and Soul" combines the pain of "suffering" with the promise of "Soul," showing her community can thrive despite pain.

She notices the teenagers standing up to the cops with dignity. In Part 4, Chapter 23 Anne told the young CORE activists to challenge any white person who said they were already free. Now she sees they have taken her advice. They anticipate being free to "eat in your restaurant, drive your police cars, [and] vote." The teenagers know what they want their future to look like, and she is growing more confident they will get there.

When the cops turn aggressive, the protesters are again confronted with the question of the best response. They're more familiar now with the practicalities of going to jail, and the probability of repeated violence. Their determination, unity, and courage of the marchers who approach the jail, and the silent strength of the elderly man, show Anne how much the movement has coalesced and unified.

But the reader can already tell her story's not going to have a happy ending. Canton and the surrounding areas are still as dangerous as ever. As soon as the cops see a successfully organized effort from the movement, they redouble their resistance. Anne isn't sure what comes next for her, but she knows the road ahead is still long for civil rights.

While Anne celebrates graduation with her new family in the civil rights movement, Adline gives her a connection to her old family through a gift of clothes. The gesture symbolizes outfitting Anne for her new life as a professional activist. Anne discovers despite her sister's outward apathy toward higher education and civil rights, Adline sees her as a role model.

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