Anne Moody (September 15, 1940 – February 5, 2015) was an African-American author who wrote about her experiences growing up poor and black in rural Mississippi, joining the Civil Rights Movement, and fighting racism against blacks in the United States beginning in the 1960s.
Born Essie Mae Moody on September 15, she was the oldest of ten children. After her parents split up, she grew up with her mother, Elmira aka Toosweet, in Centreville, Mississippi, while her father lived in nearby Woodville. At a young age she began working for white families in the area, cleaning their houses and helping their children with homework for only a few dollars a week, while earning perfect grades in school and helping at church. In the community she often heard stories of interracial sexual abuse, lynching, arson, and other acts of racial intimidation. After graduating with honors from a segregated, all-black high school, she attended Natchez Junior College (also all black) in 1961 under a basketball scholarship.
Then she moved on to Tougaloo College on an academic scholarship to earn a bachelor's degree. At Tougaloo, she started out pre-med but felt her opportunities in the medical field as an African American would be too limited. She became involved with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After graduation, Moody became a full-time worker in the Civil Rights Movement, participating in a Woolworth's lunchcounter sit-in and protests in Jackson. During Freedom Summer, she worked for CORE in the town of Canton. After experiencing intense racial prejudice and white backlash, Moody left the CORE movement because of her perceived lack of progress regarding voter registration and the perpetuation of the movement towards racial equality.
In 1967 she married a white man who was an NYU graduate student. In 1971 she gave birth to a boy. In 1972 her family moved to Berlin after she received a full-time scholarship and they remained there until 1974 when they returned to America. Upon her return, she wrote a sequel to her autobiography entitled Farewell to Too Sweet, which covered her life from 1974 to 1984. She also became involved in the anti-nuclear movement. She resettled in Mississippi in the early 1990s.
Her autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi is acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of life for a young African American before and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It has been published in seven languages and sold around the world
In the memoir, Moody gradually developed a position of leadership. Though she faced male dominance and terror from white supremacists during her days in the struggle, Anne refused the idea of being sheltered and worked as hard as any man did for independence. She fought for the freedom of her race demonstrating that liberation was as important to black women as it was to black men. She made herself known as an activist and stood out as a woman who had her own significant voice. Moody worked in dangerous areas in Mississippi and as her position of power grew, the more threatening her work became. She even sacrificed seeing her family for the sake of the movement. Since she was so well known, she could not return to her hometown without putting her family in danger of being abused by the white law enforcement officials. She used her prominent position to educate others on important racial issues. She worked to help young children receive an education so that when they grew up they would have more opportunities available to them. She worked with teenagers as well, for she believed that they were the ones who were going to make significant changes. The work she did with adults was particularly hard because they were either so set in their ways or too afraid to change the things that Anne questioned. Those who tried to vote or join the civil rights movement were often fired from their jobs or suffered beatings or abuse from white people.
After her divorce from Austin Straus in 1967, she delved into the civil rights movement further. In 1969, 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. In 1972 she worked as an artist-in-residence in Berlin. She went on to work at Cornell University and sold a collection of short stories in 1975. One of the short stories, "New Hope for the Seventies" won the silver award from Mademoiselle Magazine. She did not grant interviews or do public appearances. She worked as a Counselor for the New York City Poverty Program and lived in the city, and was working on a book entitled The Clay Guilly prior to her death.
- Coming of Age in Mississippi (non-fiction, autobiography) (1968)
- Mr. Death: Four Stories (1975)
- Emily Langer, "Anne Moody: Civil rights activist who wrote about the hardship and violence she faced growing up in the Jim Crow South" (obituary), The Independent, February 20, 2015.
- Jerry Mitchell, "Anne Moody, author of 'Coming of Age in Mississippi,' has died", The Clarion-Ledger, February 7, 2015.
- Margalit Fox, "Anne Moody, Author of ‘Coming of Age in Mississippi,’ Dies at 74", The New York Times, February 17, 2015.
- "Anne Moody". University of Minnesota. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
- Carrie Starks, "Anne Moody: A Biography", Mississippi Writers & Musicians. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- Gwin, Minrose. "Mourning Medgar: Justice, Aesthetics, and the Local", March 11, 2008. Southern Spaces