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“Coming of Age in Mississippi”: Inequality in a Society

Since childhood, Essie (Anne) lived with her mother Toosweet (Mama) Davis, her father Diddly (Di) Moody, younger brother Junior and younger sister Adline in a shack on a plantation. Her father left the family for another woman, which meant that Essie remained with her mother and sister. They were extremely poor and often had nothing to eat, which encouraged Essie to find a job after school to provide for her family. She encountered many people who were racially biased toward her, and Anne starts considering the issue of inequality between races. When she hears that a 14-year-old Black boy was murdered because he was thought to whistle at a white woman, Essie grows even more aware of the need to deal with racial inequality and prejudice. Both events in her life as a person of color and the events that happened with others led Anne to join a Movement. Even though her family had the same experience with injustice and oppression, they are afraid of the Movement and do not want to get involved in it.

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Mrs. Burke is described as one of the meanest white women in town, and Essie meets her when working for her daughter, Linda Jean Jenkins. According to Mrs. Burke, her daughter treats Essie too well and wants this behavior to change. Linda and other family members treat Essie well because they grow attached to her, especially Mrs. Burke’s son, Wayne, whom Anne tutors in algebra. Mrs. Burke continues to hire Essie because of her son’s attachment, and she also wants to show Anne that she is only suitable for housework because of her race. Essie goes back and works for the family because she fostered good relationships with the family apart from Mrs. Burke, who was an inconvenience. Essie learns to stand her ground when interacting with bigoted people, such as Mrs. Burke. For example, she is successful in forcing Mrs. Burke to allow her to use the front door entrance.

Anne’s education helped to shape her future as she becomes more knowledgeable and thus able to engage in civil rights affairs that she finds important. She excells at a Centerville school and enjoys studying there. When she gets a scholarship at Natchez College, Essie is excited to attend, but her experience turns out not particularly pleasant. She is disappointed by the small campus at the college also experiences clashes with the faculty there. Supported by Baptist churches, Natchez shelters girls from negative influences while giving boys more freedom, which Essie finds to be unfair. She also does not connect with classmates, whom Anne characterizes as hypocritical. As Anne transfers to Tougaloo for the final two years of studying, she finds more freedom and acceptance. She joins the NAACP Movement despite her mother’s protest. The experiences at different colleges showed Anne that inequality is a problem and that growing up in a society that encourages it is not how she wants to live.

The NAACP movement encouraged its members to participate in activities that protest against racial injustice and unfairness in society. The first activity in which Anne engages in the sit-in demonstration at the lunch counter at Woolworth. According to her, she agrees to be the spokesperson at the sit-in because she was nothing to lose. As the protestors sit at the counter, they are being verbally attacked with racist slogans and covered with paint, mustard, and ketchup. The protests end as the manager decides to close early, and Anne is escorted out of the building with her fellow protestors. The second activity in which Anne engages are the protests around Jackson for which she gets arrested and jailed, along with other students. Essie’s involvement in the demonstrations begins affecting her family back home who receive threats from the community. Essie fears for her family and feels helpless. The third activity is Anne’s work at the CORE offices in Canton, even though she is warned about not getting involved. She faces violence and threats from racially prejudiced citizens. The activities did not make a difference immediately and contributed to the further escalation of the societal conflict.

Anne grows concerned about the violence exhibited by the members of the Movement. The church bombing that occurred in Birmingham in 1963 makes her reflect on the actions of the organization and the strategies that it is using. Getting on the bus to Washington, she is conflicted about the future and wonders whether they would really overcome the challenge of racial inequality. Anne gets on the bus because she understands the need to continue the journey toward social justice but is unsure of what the future holds for her and fellow protestors. As the narrator, she ends the book by not telling the results of the trip because her readers understand that the path of people engaged in the civil rights movement is never easy and that there will be challenging. There is not a concluding event because Anne herself does not know what is going to happen, and it is for her to find out eventually.

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StudyCorgi. "“Coming of Age in Mississippi”: Inequality in a Society." January 18, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/coming-of-age-in-mississippi-inequality-in-a-society/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) '“Coming of Age in Mississippi”: Inequality in a Society'. 18 January.

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