Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 4, Chapter 30 : The Movement | Summary

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Summary

When Anne goes back to Canton for the summer, Mrs. Chinn tells her she's wasting her time—the situation in town hasn't improved, and the movement in Canton can't accomplish change alone. Anne sees C.O. Chinn in jail; he's been arrested. She feels an urgent need to "let the world know what was happening."

Back at the Freedom House, a bus full of activists is heading for Washington. Bob Moses urges Anne to come along. A 12-year-old boy, Gene, excitedly sings spirituals along with the activists and asks Anne why she isn't singing. Anne's staring out the window, remembering all the violence, pain, and struggle she's seen in Mississippi. Gene asks Anne if they'll make change in Washington, and Anne can only respond with "I wonder."

Analysis

What will break the cycle of violence and provide lasting civil rights for African Americans? Whatever the solution is, it must be a national effort far beyond Mississippi. In the last chapter the pattern continues. After a protest and a little progress, white brutality forces black people back into hiding. The inspiring C.O. Chinn has earned nothing for his sacrifice. Anne sees the problem's scale and magnitude. The South has a human rights crisis. The feeling of Mississippi "closing in" leads to Anne's final journey in the book: out of the South, possibly for good, into an uncertain future.

Young Gene reminds the reader of the activist Anne was a few short years ago. He is confident and brimming with hope. Moody quotes the lyrics of "We Shall Overcome," the anthem of the civil rights movement with roots in African American hymns. Revolutions and reform movements all over the world have sung the simple lyrics. Moody presents them as a source of both inspiration and pain. Her experience has aged her. She provides no answers for the reader at the end, only an open-ended question. Will they ever overcome?

During the surge of activism in 1964's "Freedom Summer," COFO and other groups pushed for voter registration and operated Freedom Schools in Mississippi. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed. But the civil rights movement became divided by conflict soon afterward, and gave way to other social movements. Moody, too, would become disillusioned with the movement's direction by the time she wrote the book. She doesn't want to give up hope completely, but the repetition of "I wonder. I really wonder" shows how the legacy of racism and slavery lingers no matter what. The last line switches from a reflective past tense to a direct present tense. Moody, writing four years after she rode the bus to Washington, is still wondering.

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