Anne Moody

Major Works

  • Mr. Death: Four Stories (Fiction) 1975)
  • Coming of Age in Mississippi (nonfiction, memoir) 1968

Anne Moody: A Biography

by Carrie Starks (SHS)

Anne Moody is a well-known, black Mississippi author. She has written an autobiographical work depicting life in Mississippi and the struggles of black people in the South.  Her books help people understand what life was like in the segregated South before and during the civil rights movement.

Anne Moody was born Essie Mae Moody in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, on September 15, 1940, to Fred and Elnire (Williams) Moody. She attended Natchez Junior College from 1959 through 1961 and completed her education with a B. S. degree in 1964 at Tougaloo College in Jackson. While at Tougaloo, Moody became active in the Civil Rights Movement.  She  married Austin Stratus and had one child named Sascha. In 1969, but the marriage ended in divorce.

Anne’s popular memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi begins in her hometown of Centerville, Mississippi. Moody tells the story of her struggles and triumphs in this rural Mississippi town. She talks about racism from a child’s perspective. Moody never thought of herself as a writer but rather as a civil rights activist. Throughout Moody’s life,  she has won many awards and honors for her literary work.   Coming of Age in Mississippi received the Brotherhood Award from the National Council of Christians and Jews and the Best Book of the Year Award from the National Library Association, both in 1969. She also received the silver medal from Mademoiselle magazine for her short story New Hopes for the Seventies.  Moody’s other work includes Mr. Death: Four Stories. Moody also has sound recordings of her book of short stories in Mr. Death and her short story Bobo.

During Anne Moody’s career, she worked hard as a civil rights activist and worked for the Congress of Racial Equality. She spoke and participated in many civil rights activities like the famous Woolworth luncheon sit-in in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi, and the March on Washington ( when Dr. Martin Luther King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.). Reverend Edward King and Anne Moody had a close professional relationship. Also in 1972, Moody was the artist-in-residence in Berlin, Germany. She  worked at Cornell University later as a civil rights project coordinator. Moody had moved to New York in the 1960’s where she continued to write and serve her community as a Counselor for New York City’s poverty program.

Moody remained a more private citizen and rarely did interviews. Moody’s works have interested people throughout the world. University students, as well as high school students, have read her books as historical references because Moody’s writing allows people to feel the time period. In addition, they interest people because her writing helps the reader visualize the events that occurred in the 50’s and 60’s.

Anne Moody later moved back to Gloster, Mississippi, where, according to her sister Adline Moody, she never felt at ease and always had someone, usually her son Sascha, with her if she went anywhere.  She died February 5, 2015, at her home in Gloster, Mississippi, at the age of seventy-four.

Anne Moody: A Biography

by Meshay Wynn (SHS)

Anne Moody was born in Mississippi on September 15, 1940, in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. She was the oldest of nine children born to Fred and Elnire Moody. As a child, she attended segregated schools where she made A’s and B’s throughout her years of school. In order to keep food on the table and clothes on her family members’ backs, she cleaned houses.

After graduating from high school, Moody went to New Orleans to stay with her aunt and to find a job as a waitress. At the end of the summer, she received a basketball scholarship to Natchez Junior College(1961), where she got involved in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), sit-ins, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to fight for civil rights for blacks in the south. After attending Natchez Junior College, she went to Tougaloo College where she received her bachelor of science degree in 1964.

In 1964 she carried her civil rights activities north to Cornell University where she served as a civil rights project coordinator from 1964 to 1965. One of the reasons for her joining all of these civil rights groups was the lynching of Emmitt Till. Her hatred toward whites became a force within the civil rights struggle. In the end, she broke away from the movement due to her mixed feelings about northern whites and doubts about the direction of black liberation. (Black Writers  410).

In 1968 she wrote her autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi, an articulate and moving account of the often frustrating struggle of growing up black in the south. She clearly recalls the succession of shacks in which her family lived and the hunger, the white prejudice, the black apathy, and the racism. This book also represents the flowing together of the personal and historical and the action between them (Black Writers 410).

Moody says, “In the beginning I never really saw myself as a writer. I was first and foremost an activist in the civil rights movement in Mississippi. When I could no longer see that anything was being accomplished by our work there, I left and went North. I came back to see through my writing that no matter how hard we in the movement worked, nothing seemed to change; that we made a few visible little gains; yet at the root, things always remained the same; and that the movement was not in control of its destiny, nor did we have any means of gaining control of it. We were like an angry dog on a leash that had turned on its master. It could bark and howl and snap, and sometimes even bite, but the master was always in control. I realized that the universal fight for human rights, dignity, justice, equality, and freedom is not and should not be just the fight of the American Negro or the Indians or the Chicanos. It’s the fight of every ethnic and racial minority, every suppressed and exploited person, everyone of the millions who daily suffer one or another of the indignities of the powerless and voiceless masses. And this trend of thinking is what finally brought about my involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, especially as it began to a splinter and get more narrowly nationalistic in its thinking” (Black Writers 410).

Moody wrote Mr. Death (short-stories, 1975). She was married to Austin Stratus but divorced him in March 9, 1967. They have one child named Sascha. Moody moved to New York and granted no interviews and made no public appearances.  Later, she moved back to Gloster, Mississippi, where her sister Adline Moody and her son Sascha also lived.  Moody died in her sleep on February 5, 20015.  at the age of 74.  She had been suffering from dementia.

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Reviews

A Review of Coming of Age in Mississippi

by Carrie Starks (SHS)

The well-written autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody is the story of her life as a poor black girl growing into adulthood. It depicts life in a rural Mississippi town during the civil rights movement of the 1940’s and 1950’s. She overcomes obstacles such as discrimination and hunger as she struggles to survive childhood.

Anne Moody, always sought a purpose while she struggled through life’s hardships. The autobiography begins when Anne is four years old and portrays her life up to age twenty-four at the end of the book. As a very independent black woman with an abiding faith in God, Moody held her head high through her youthful trials and struggles. Anne Moody was a very private individual, keeping her emotions within her heart and allowing few people to know her true feelings. The withheld feelings often led to mental breakdowns. Young Moody was not searching for love because she could care less if she found a husband. She had a personal mission throughout the entire book. She met and befriended many new and interesting people. Although friendly and compassionate, Anne was somewhat peculiar. The story of her young life keeps the reader wondering about the source of her strength and stamina as she stood up for the causes in which she believed.

As the story begins, Anne is a four-year-old child who watches her parents go to work everyday except Sunday for the man of the plantation. This young girl is innocent and naive, not seeing the bad things that are going on around her. George Lee, Anne’s cousin, keeps her and her sister during the day. One day Cousin George, a mean-spirited character with other things on his mind, sets the house on fire and blames it on Anne. Soon after this, Anne’s father becomes tired of working as a sharecropper. He leaves his family and his responsibilities for a life of uncontrolled sex, gambling, and alcohol. Anne’s mother is faced with raising and supporting two children as a single parent. She was able to get a job in the city, and they moved with the help of other family members. While living in town, her mother met a man named Raymond. Unfortunately, Anne and Raymond never got along, and they encountered major problems.

As Anne entered high school, she was a good student, excelling in all her classes. She was also well-liked by her peers and had the honor of being crowned homecoming queen. An outstanding athlete, she was a member of the basketball team and the tumbling team. Because of the problems between Anne and Raymond, Moody chose to move to Woodville to live with her father just before her senior year of high school. Anne’s family was poor so she worked hard in the homes and businesses of white people to support herself and to put herself through college. Anne spent her summer vacations working in New Orleans and Baton Rouge where she lived with family members.

Anne seemed to have few problems, but in reality, she had many deep-seated problems. She wanted so badly to understand the discrimination of the era. She also wanted the killing and raping of her fellow black friends to stop. She was always able to contain and conceal her emotions because of the fear of what might happen to her. After high school Anne moved to Natchez where she entered college at Natchez Junior College on a basketball scholarship. It was here at college that she encountered her first experiences with boys. While attending Natchez Junior College,  she also began to see her calling. The major conflict in this book is Anne versus herself and society because she struggles to change wrongs to rights. Anne struggled financially but managed to change some things at Natchez Junior College.

As Moody became consumed with her mission in life, she entered Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, to complete her college education. Tougaloo was an integrated college for blacks and whites (although very few whites were in attendance). However, she did have white teachers who had come to the South from the northern states. During her two years at Tougaloo, she became involved with the NAACP and CORE. She worked for the CORE in a number of places but was generally located in Canton, Mississippi. Anne moved anywhere the CORE needed her. The memoir ends as she is re-located in Washington D.C.

The work is written in first person point of view. Anne is the narrator/ author. The reader identifies with Anne because Moody helps them know exactly how she feels. The plot is mostly the internal struggle within Anne, but also deals, of course, with her conflict with the society of the time. The author’s purpose in writing this book was to help people understand her life. The setting is significant because it sets the mood for the entire book. The people in this story are real people who give the reader incite into how uncaring people can be or how people are just too scared to show they care. However, the conflicts keep the story interesting to the reader. The title of this autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi explains what the book is about. This story is about growing up or coming of age (reaching adulthood) in Mississippi during a time of change and struggle. In conclusion, I enjoyed this book very much because it allowed me to understand an important historical event and to know what it felt like to be a civil rights activist. . Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi gives the reader a better appreciation of the struggles and hardships people went through and overcame just to have some basic rights.

A Review of Coming of Age in Mississippi

by Cornelia Ervin (SHS)

Coming of Age in Mississippi is filled with examples of the hatred that existed between blacks and whites in the 1960’s and 70’s.The main character experiences racism, but the end is filled with joy and peace. The main character is Essie Mae, who is really Anne Moody herself. She struggles through the difficulties of racism between the blacks and whites in a small town in Mississippi called Centerville. Her personality changes as her life progresses and the killing begins. Anne Moody is a smart, intelligent, black girl who sits proud on top of the world.

This work has a setting that is in central Mississippi during the 1940’s through 1960’s.  It begins on Mr. Carter’s plantation where Essie Mae and her family live. Essie Mae ‘s mama and dad work all the time on the farm, so Essie Mae and her little sister stay at home alone or her uncle George Lee stay with them. George used to beat Essie while her mama and dad were gone to work at the farm. After a while Essie’s dad and mama separated, and Essie and her mother moved several times into different homes. Essie’s mother married a man named Raymond who was a soldier. By this time Essie’s mama had six children and another on the way. Anne was working for a white woman to help her family. She says, “Things seemed to get harder. Mama was always having another baby.” Essie was making six dollars a week, and she tried to help her mother buy food so they wouldn’t have to eat bread and water every day.

As Essie and her family struggled, there was so much killing that Essie decided to spend the summer with her uncle in New Orleans, Louisiana. While in Louisiana she got a job at a cafe. She was only fifteen and a worker had to be eighteen. However, she got the job, but she told one of her co-workers her age. The co-worker told the boss, and Essie got fired.

Essie finds out that her name is not Essie Mae, but Anne Moody. People at school still called her Moody. After high school Anne attended Natchez college, she didn’t like it because it was small–only three brick, one-story buildings. She played basketball like she did in high school. Anne moved on to Toogaloo College in Toogaloo, Mississippi. There she joined the group SNCC that had been started in the Delta (Greenwood and Greenville). Moody visited Greenwood and became very active with the SNCC group. Soon she joined the NAACP and became active in the movement.

This story  is written in first person point of view as the author is telling the story about her life.. The story  is uplifting because Anne goes through lots of things, but she manages to survive. Moody wrote this book to entertain but also to express her feelings about growing up in Mississippi in the 1940’s.

The theme is important as Anne grows up in Mississippi. The theme is about the hardship of life and how difficult life can be in the 1940’s when there is lots of racism. In conclusion, I enjoyed this book  very much and believe that many people today can relate to Moody’s experiences growing up in southern Mississippi. I feel that she could influence a lot of people.

A Review of Coming of Age in Mississippi

by Meshay Wynn (SHS)

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody is an autobiographical look at the hardships endured by blacks in the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta. Moody clearly paints a picture of racial inequality in the South of the 1950’s and 60’s.For example, Essie Mae’s (who is really Anne Moody) mother had to work odd end jobs to support her family and made between five to twelve dollars a week. She could only feed her family leftovers from her job or beans and bread. Such treatment was proof of the unfairness blacks endured because of the color of their skin.

Essie Mae had to attend segregated schools due to all the moving from house to house over the years. Everyone treated her okay, except for some white people who were still prejudiced. For example, because of the color of their friends’ skins, blacks were unable to enter the theater with their friends. Because of incidents like this, Moody got involved with the Civil Rights Movement while in college. She joined the NAACP, CORE, and SNCC to help blacks in the south to vote. Officials in Mississippi were against blacks registering to vote because it would increase the chances of having a black in office. She was also involved in sit-ins, and marches for the right to vote and to end racism. For example, she was involved in a sit-in with other CORE and NAACP members where they couldn’t be served at an all-white counter. The Civil Right members refused to get up from the counter unless they were served. All of a sudden, white people started coming into the restaurant and started calling them names and by using racial slurs, throwing ketchup and mustard at them, and dragging them from the counter and beating them. The police came and broke the crowd up and took the Civil Rights members out of the restaurant.

In the end, she leaves the Civil Rights Movement because she is confused about the discrimination and racism against blacks and whites. She couldn’t return home due to her involvement with the movement, so she went to New Orleans to stay with her aunt and to get her old job back at the restaurant. She didn’t stay long in New Orleans because a lot of things happened in her hometown to her family, so she went back to Jackson to the Movement. When she got into Jackson, she left her bags at the house she was staying and went to get on a bus with other CORE members and headed to Washington to tell the President about the discrimination against blacks.

As a student, I advise any person to read this book because racism and discrimination is still out there. It is not just against blacks; it is against everybody.

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Related Websites

Bibliography

  • Black Writers, Gale Research Inc., 1989, 410.
  • Moody, Anne, Coming of Age in Mississippi, Canada: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1976.
  • Contemporary Authors, Gale Research Inc., 1978

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