Teaching Anne Moody *Coming of Age in Mississippi* Discussion/Aug 1997

Query From Seth Wigderson SETHW@MAINE.MAINE.EDU 02 Aug 1997

I am going to be using Anne Moody's Coming of Age In Mississippi in a US history survey course and I was wondering if anyone

  1. could pass on experiences in using the book in class
  2. can tell what happened to her after the book

Thanks.

X-POSTS FROM H-SOUTH AND RESPONSES FROM H-WOMEN Editor's Note: Thanks to Seth for putting together all these messages. Some have been posted already on H-Women, some have not. In any case, I found it fascinating to read them all at once. Good idea! Steve Reschly

***

From: Seth Wigderson SETHW@MAINE.MAINE.EDU 11 Aug 1997

A while ago I posted a query to H-Women and H-Teach asking for experience in using Anne Moody's *Coming of Age in Mississippi" as well as information on her later life. I got a wonderful series of replies from those lists, and as H-South which also picked up the query as well as some private posts. My students were very positive about the book which I used in conjunction with "Anchor of my Soul," a documentary about Portland Maine's black community's 175 year existence. I found Pam Pennock's writing suggestion (ask them to write briefly on two moving passages) very effective. I also was told that the black woman in photo 69 in Taylor Branch's Parting The Waters is Anne Moody at the Jackson Sit-In.

As can be seen from the replies, there is some doubt as to Anne Moody's current life. I got the 1996 post from Allida Black off an earlier H-Women discussion. If Anne Moody wants a private life away from researchers, I think we should respect her wish.

So let me collectively thank the following who took the time to contribute to the discussion.

Here are the eighteen posts with many thanks to Allida Black, Ralph E. Luker, Joyce Miller, Jochen Wierich, Charles H. Martin, Ruth Alden Doan, Arvarh E. Strickland, Ralph E. Luker, Amanda Seligman, Pam Pennock, Krissi Jimroglou, Janet Davidson, Diana Lyn Laulainen-Schein, Janann Sherman, Charlotte Borst, Margaret Susan Thompson, Julia E. Liss and Lauren Coodley.


[FROM AN EARLIER DISCUSSION]
<amblack@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu>
"Allida Black" 5-MAR-1996
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 09:14:11 -0600

Anne Moody does not reply to queries. She has been burned so much that she does not give out her address or respond to requests from her publisher


From: "Ralph E. Luker" <rluker@netcom.com>

Seth:

One of your questions was dealt with extensively on another list recently and I have forwarded a number of the responses to you.

When I was teaching at Antioch College several years ago, I used _Coming of Age in Mississippi_ as a counterpoint to Taylor Branch's _Parting the Waters_ in a seminar on the civil rights movement. The two books offered the students male/female, urban/rural, elite/mass perspectives on the make-up of the Southern African American constituency of the movement. I also listed it as an optional reading for my course in 20th century America. Students liked the book very much, though they often did not pick up on questions about it that I found _quite_ intriguing: like why Ann alone from her family became involved in the movement (at most, the rest of the family reflects the resentful but relentlessly passive acceptance of things as they were); and that that she found a supportive environment for her work in the movement, not at the small African American controlled college she initially attended, but at Tougaloo, where black and white folk had a century of experience working together.

The students and I agreed that _Coming of Age in Mississippi_ is a terrific book, but we thought so probably for different reasons.

From: Joyce Ann Miller <joycemil@wam.umd.edu>

I, too, have been trying to find out what happened to Anne Moody. Alas, an afternoon in the library failed to provide much info. According to the encyclopedia "Black Women in America," Moody left Mississippi in 1964 to become a civil right project coordinator at Cornell Univ. in Ithaca, NY. The only other information given is: "Unfortunately, Moody would later break with the movement; frustration with northern whites and doubts about the direction of Black liberation culminated in her departure."

I believe she then completed a book of short stories. You might check with Harper and Row, her publisher, for more info. Hope this helps,

From: Jochen Wierich <jwierich@nicom.com>

I taught a class on the Sixties in the Spring of 1995 and remember coming across an article that claimed Ann Moody expatriated to France and still lives there. Sorry, but I cannot remember the newspaper or magazine source.

From Charles H. Martin mcharles@utep.edu

According to friends at Ole Miss, Anne Moody only rarely returns to the state of Mississippi, where she nonetheless enjoys near icon status among African-Americans. She is reportedly an executive in a community service organization in the Washington, DC, area these days. There is an excellent photo of her, John Salter, and Joan Trunpauer at a 1963 Jackson sit-in in Darlene Hine, ed., BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA. My students here on the border find her autobiography very compelling and appreciate the photo very much.

If anyone has more specific information about her, I would also appreciate hearing it.

From: Ruth Alden Doan <doanr@minnie.hollins.edu>

My apologies if I missed something: I was watching for an answer to the person who asked about the later life of Anne Moody, author of Coming of Age in Mississippi, and have not seen a response. If you got a private response, would you share it? If there was no response, may I ask again? Sorry if I just missed it.

From: "Arvarh E. Strickland" <histaes@showme.missouri.edu>

I saw Anne Moody and her son last May at the meeting of the Tougaloo College Alumni Association. The Office of Alumni Affairs at Tougaloo College can probably provide her address to those interested in contacting her. She seems to be doing well. I did not, however, inquire into her past.

From: "Ralph E. Luker" <rluker@netcom.com>

I can only report what I have heard by way of rumor. Anne Moody was one of the civil rights workers who left Mississippi in 1965 and thereafter in several waves. My understanding is that she settled in and continues to live in the New York City area, but that she continues also to shun the public spotlight. I am told that since the publication of _Coming of Age in Mississippi_ she has written some children's stories, though I have no information about their publication.

Other subscribers to the H-South list may be able to confirm, correct or elaborate on this information.

From Amanda Seligman seligman@merle.acns.nwu.edu

I've taught COMING OF AGE IN MISSISSIPPI, both as TA in a survey class and as an item in a course on youth in US history.

I found that the students have an understandable tendency to be carried away with admiration for Ms. Moody's bravery, integrity, etc. I like to call attention to the other characters in the book, the ones who don't act with the same courage, etc., as a way of getting at the external forces and psychological obstacles that explain why it was not easy to get a civil rights movement going in the US.

My advisor told us that Moody went on to be a lawyer in NYC, but I've never seen this bit of information anywhere else.

From: Pam Pennock <pennock.5@osu.edu>

I have led successful discussions on the book _Coming of Age in Mississippi_by Anne Moody with groups of about 25 students. A week before the discussion, I asked each student to choose two or more passages of the book (in whatever length) that struck them in some way (surprised, saddened, appalled, moved, intrigued them) and to write a paragraph or so about each passage and his or her response to it. I tell them that this is an assignment that will be turned into me.

On the day of the discussion, I have the students sit in a circle and simply go around and share the passages they chose and their responses to them. I do not collect the papers until the end of class because some students prefer to consult their writings while they are speaking. Very rarely do students just read what they've written.

The first time I tried this, I made the mistake of letting them pick passages from anywhere in the book. It's a long book (for a 10 week course, so most students chose excerpts from the first half. This disappointed me because we didn't get to discuss the last part of the book (The Movement).

So the next time, I put parameters on what parts of the book they could choose from. The book is divided into four parts (her childhood, high school, college, and the movement). I asked each student to choose one passage from part four, and then one passage from one of the other 3 parts (actually, I assigned them one of the other 3 parts.) This sounds complicated, but it really isn't. It assured that the whole book would be discussed and everyone wouldn't be choosing the same passages.

It turned out to be one of my best discussion sections ever. The students were really engaged with the book, and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of their responses to it. Most responses were very original and heartfelt. Letting them choose sections of the book was a good way to allow them to "own" the discussion, and I think they appreciated that. In fact, they brought up nearly every issue that I would have emphasized if I were leading the discussion.

I was also surprised at how well _all_ of them spoke -- and that they spoke to one another, not to me. Also, they reacted to each other's comments ("yeah, I felt that way too" or "yeah, I couldn't believe that happened!") without my prodding.

I think that the discussion was really helped by the fact that I had them write out their responses beforehand. This gave them a chance to really think about it and prepare. I suspect that this is a reason why some who previously had been shy about discussion were able to speak so well. Also, the fact that every member of the class had to participate helped remove that "I'm too cool to talk" attitude from the class. Every student seemed genuinely interested and sorry when class ended. On evaluations, feedback about that day was very positive.

I think the subject matter and style of _Coming of Age_ lends itself to this type of personal, democratic discussion approach.

From Krissi Jimroglou <jimroglk@gusun.georgetown.edu>

I read Moody's "Coming of Age" my senior year in college (FA95) in an African-American Autobiography and Literature class.

Concurrently, we read Alice Walker's "Meridian," which I found made a very interesting study of autobiography vs. fiction and highlighted the some of the salient features of the Civil Rights movement for these two women.

Both were great reads.Good Luck.

From: Janet Davidson <jfd@UDel.Edu>

I have used Anne Moody's *Coming of Age* in class and it went over very well. It was overwhelmingly the favourite book of the class AND it generated in-class discussion about class, race, power and fear. I used Anne's experience of meeting her relatives Walter and ? (I'm writing without my library around me) who she originally perceives as white to get a discussion going about the ways that ideas about race can change over time. We compared racial categories in the 19403-1960s with those that we'd discussed earlier from the era of social darwinism. This let us discuss how racial categories are socially constructed using concrete examples. Since US race relations were a major theme of my survey course, this was a really fruitful discussion.

There was a discussion of what happened to anne Moody on this list some time ago. I don't remember the exact details, but perhaps someone else does, or the original contributor is still on-line.

hope this helps you decide to teach Moody's book.

From: Diana Laulainen-Schein <Diana.L.Laulainen-Schein-1@tc.umn.edu>

>I am going to be using Anne Moody's Coming of Age In Mississippi >in a US history survey course and I was wondering if anyone >a) could pass on experiences in using the book in class

This is an awesome book to use with undergraduates. It seems like a long read, but even those students who normally whine about length said that they couldn't put it down. In my class we spent several days discussing the book and its place in history, as well as racism. I had a study guide to provoke some thought, but in the class where the discussion really worked, we had an awesome discussion on the history of racism, including what's happening in our world today.

Another book to suggest to students for further reading would be The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It will similarly draw them in and sheds light on another dimension of the same theme.

>b) can tell what happened to her after the book

I can't tell you exactly but she is living in France and has been for quite awhile. I think she got discouraged with the status quo in the US and abandoned ship, so to speak. Oh, and I think I recall something about writing children's books.

From Janann Sherman SHERMAN@MSUVX1.MEMPHIS.EDU

I use, and have for several years, Anne Moody's book in my US survey courses (2nd half). And every semester, as I contemplate reading yet another 80 papers about this book, I vow to change the assignment to give myself a break--but I never do--because within each of the essays, and from personal comments to me by students, I find the reflection of an intense personal engagement with this work. Many remark that they could not put it down, that they have given it to friends and relatives to read, and express what one student wrote this past semester: "this book has changed my life."

When I assign the essay, I ask students to write a 5-7 page paper--the details of the structure etc are carefully included in the assignment handout--they receive this with their syllabus the first day and I urge them to begin reading the book asap (essay is due the week we begin work on the modern civil rights movement. Students are asked to address within their essays: how and what Anne Moody learned about the social significance of race--how she came of age racially; what personal characteristics were most responsible for the way she responded, and speculate why she responded differently from those around her (her peers, her mother and other adults).

Then I ask students to compare her and their own experience of coming to terms with the significance of race in their lives and in American society--in other words, how they have "learned" what race means in modern America.

While I do offer those who are uncomfortable with writing such a personal account the opportunity for an alternative assignment, no one to date has taken me up on it.

I believe that this second component moves students beyond distancing themselves from something that happened "long ago and far away." An added bonus for me is that these are always interesting, and frequently moving. Moody's personal memoir is very powerful in issues of identity and coming to grips with race relations today. Perhaps because we are in Memphis, very close to where Anne Moody grew up and where race continues to divide us in ways I found startling when I first came here (having lived in the southwest and northeast). About 25-28% of our students are African American, in a city that is approx. 55% black. I usually have about 40 student per survey session, 3 or 4 of them will be people of color. Further, many white students have been educated in christian academies and suburban schools that are at least 85-90% white. I believe, though, that this book is compelling reading for all students, especially given the current rhetoric and debates about the "pathology" of the black community and apparent consensus on welfare "reform" (i.e. jettisoning social responsibility in favor of personal denunciations).

Students are always curious about what happened to Anne Moody, and some are skeptical that she existed at all (that she was just a narrative construct). The most recent rumor I heard is that she is working in some university administration office, perhaps in Pennsylvania. I have no verification for this. I, too, would like to find out.

As far as discussion of the book and its concepts, I find that students cannot help but talk about this book--in the context of discussions about aspects of the civil rights movement or among themselves.

So, despite my occasional weariness with reading yet another description of the incident in the movie theater, I will continue to use this provocative and inspiring book.

From: Charlotte Borst <SBSF121@UABDPO.DPO.UAB.EDU>

I suspect that my students' reaction to Anne Moody may be due, in part, to the region of the country where I teach, but it has been a fantastic book to use in a history survey course. I used it when I taught at the UW-Milw, and it went well, but since I have been in Birmingham, this is by far the most popular and beloved book I have assigned in any class I have taught. Many of UAB's students are older, and I tend to get many women , even in my survey classes--I have had students tell me that this is one of the few books they have actually read, cover to cover. Some students have told me they bought additional copies for female relatives. Now, keep in mind that I get students whose relatives were the "marchers" and the children of the marchers, as well as relatives who were white supremacists. Deep south students tend to be very polite, and the concept of actually discussing race in the classroom, believe it or not, is considered "not polite". But Moody's book has inspired fantastic discussions about the politics of race, of community, of male and female roles in the civil rights movement, and on and on. Stories have come out in my classroom that humble me to hear them-- I have heard many private stories surrounding the boycott of 1963. I can't say enough about this book, but teaching it in Augusta, Maine, may not elicit the same response. How about showing some of the "Eyes on the Prize" segments when the class begins to discuss this?

Another very fine book in this same vein is the book on Fanny Lou Hamer, "This little light of mine"--I used it in a women's history course--it taught beautifully, but perhaps because Hamer was older, and not a college student, this book hasn't elicited the same response as Moody.

from: Margaret Susan Thompson **msthomps@juno.com** (or: msthom1@ibm.net)

I taught this book twice as part of the US history survey (1877-present) at Syracuse. In addition to a text and a documents reader, we read 4 "coming of age" accounts: Edith Wharton's "My Antonia," Michael Gold's "Jews Without Money," Claude Brown's "Manchild in the Promised Land," and Moody.
I found Moody's book to be an excellent lens through which to examine a variety of issues in recent US history: the civil rights movement, youth movement, emergence of feminist consciousness (supplemented by lecture material derived from Sara Evans and others), etc. But my approach--using the 4 supplemental readings--also governed the approach I took, because it allowed comparisons over time, setting, etc. We also explored the question of the writer's voice in transmitting history.... If you'd like more information, please let me know, either on list or by private e-mail.

As far as what happened to Moody, it's my understanding that she had a number of problems after the publication of this book, and has not played a part in public life since the late 1960s. But I can't cite specifics.

Hope this helps, Peggy

From: "JULIE LISS" <jliss@scrippscol.edu>

Although it's very long, the book works very well in class. There is some useful information on Moody and her book in Arlyn Diamond, "Choosing Sides, Choosing Lives: Women's Autobiographies of the Civil Rights Movement," in Margo Culley, ed. AMERICAN WOMEN'S AUTOBIOGRPAHY: FEA(S)TS OF MEMORY (Madison, 19920.

From: laurenil@napanet.net (lauren coodley)

I have tried to track down any subsequent publications by Anne Moody and found none.

I have found my white working-class students respond rapturously to the book. Many have written her letters about what her book meant to them (I use the letters as a way of helping them respond; send them when I can). This book is a very valuable historical document. Good choice!

From Sue Gonda Suegonda@aol.com 11 Aug 1997

I use both Moody and Malcolm X's autobiography with freshmen history survey students. They love them both. I give them the choice to write 4-6 pp on one of them and then we have a class discussion about: a) how their childhood experiences framed their activism; b)why they chose the paths they did; c)gender issues raised in both books; d)their struggles with other blacks (i.e., they both discuss skin color and their problems with blacks privileging lighter-skinned blacks--I make them discuss why this would be important in the 1950s/60s struggle for equality); e)the role of religion in their lives; and f) any other issues about their lives and times that strike the students as relevant.

We always have a lively discussion. There is much in their lives that overlap and that is also very different. Students are mixed about Malcolm as a good guy/bad guy in the beginning of the discussions. Oddly, I have had some of the most poignant feedback about Moody from the men. Her writing is so clear, so personal, that men feel they learn not only a lot about the experiences of blacks in the 1950s, but also feel like they understand what it's like to be a woman who's been discriminated against/harassed/assaulted. I think the women students ID with Moody and are glad to see her opinions in print. All students agree they are "easy", tho painful reads. Good luck.

From Kriste Lindenmeyer KAL6444@tntech.edu 12 Aug 1997

Seth's summary is very useful. Here is one more idea.

Last semester I used the Anne Moody Book, _Coming of Age in Mississippi_, and the Mary Crow Dog book, _Lakota Woman_ for my American women's history course. The comparative worked well. Anne Moody and Mary Crow Dog are both members of minority groups, both grew up in poverty, and both became activists. Some of their experiences are similar, but others are very different. I asked the students to evaluate the similarities and differences between the the experiences of these two women, and then discussed why these circumstances occurred. In worked in both my Tennessee Technological University course and the one I taught at Vanderbilt--two very different socio-economic groups of students.

From lauren coodley <laurenil@napanet.net> 13 Aug 1997

The history of Anne Moody, her book, and its continuing effects would make a very interesting project in historiography. The very fact of her disappearance after telling her story makes an important object lesson to students in primary sources, the fragility of women as historical subjects, etc.