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Moody, Anne


Born 15 September 1940, near Centreville, Mississippi

Daughter of Fred and Elmira Williams Moody; married Austin Straus, 1967 (divorced); children: Sascha

Anne Moody grew up on a plantation in rural Mississippi, one of nine children of sharecropper parents in the violent and racist Deep South of the 1940s and 1950s. When her father, tired of the sharecropping life, left the family, her mother remarried. Moody, deeply distressed by the violence surrounding their lives and her mother's unwillingness to confront its existence, left Centreville at her earliest opportunity. She went to live with her father during her last year of high school, then with relatives in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. She worked from age nine, first at an after-school job for a white family, cleaning house and watching their children, to help feed her own family, then supporting herself through college with a summer job waiting tables at a restaurant in New Orleans.

She excelled in school, was homecoming queen and a mostly A student in high school, going on to Natchez College on a basketball scholarship and then to Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, on an academic scholarship. While at Tougaloo, she helped to organize the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP, was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was one of the original protesters at the segregated Woolworth's counter in Jackson. She earned her B.S. from Tougaloo in 1964 and left the South, going to New York and serving as civil rights project coordinator at Cornell University for a year. Becoming frustrated with the splintering factions of the civil rights movement, what she saw as the lack of progress and the ineffectuality of the non-violent stance against violent racism, she then moved to New York City and began to write the work she is known for, Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968).

The autobiography of her life from the age of four to twenty-four, Coming of Age in Mississippi is a singular and powerful document. Personal and political before the term came into vogue, the book depicts Moody's impoverished childhood, her inner conflict and turmoil with regard to the brutal racism that shadowed and defined her days and nights, and her eventual exteriorization and transformation of that turmoil into her work as an activist. Her activism then led to estrangement from her family, who did not share her commitment to the movement, to her being listed on a Klan wanted list, and to her being unable to return to her hometown. Written in a forthright, unapologetic, and cleanly intimate prose, Coming of Age in Mississippi is a work with a continuing impact on readers of all ages. Highly praised and now considered a classic of the autobiography genre, much anthologized and studied in classes on American history, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, and African-American women as a source document, Coming of Age in Mississippi is a work of lasting and invaluable worth.

The book received a Best Book of the Year award from the National Library Association and Moody received a Brotherhood award from the National Council of Christians and Jews, both in 1969. She received a silver medal from Mademoiselle in 1970 as part of their "New Hopes for the Seventies: 25 to Watch" feature. She became a counselor for New York City's poverty program in 1967, is a member of International PEN, and spent time in Berlin in 1972 as artist-in-residence on a German Academic Exchange Service grant. Her other published works include a book of four young adult short stories entitled Mr. Death (1975), opinion pieces and stories in Ms. and Mademoiselle, and stories in several elementary school readers.

It becomes clear from the tone of an opinion column in Mademoiselle in January of 1969, not too long after the publication of Coming of Age, that Moody felt frustrated with the movement and the Northern white establishment's response—or lack thereof. Angry and militant, her words there are a presage of her eventual withdrawal from the public light. She has been living in New York City, reticent of publicity, continuing her work as an activist for human rights. As she wrote in her autobiography, "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, every one of the millions who daily suffer one or another of the indignities of the powerless and voiceless masses."


Heller, D. A., "Radical Departures: The Feminization of Quest-Romance" (thesis, 1989). Holland, E. I. M., "The Autobiography of a Parader Without a Permit" (thesis, 1986).

Reference works:

Black Writers (1989). CA (1977). The Norton Book of Women's Lives (1993). Who's Who Among African Americans (1998).

Other references:

CLAJ (Sept. 1990). Feminist Teacher (1994). Harvard Educational Review (1970). Journal of Women's History (1996). Ms. (Sept./Oct. 1993). NWSA Journal (1996). Seventeen (June 1985).


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