MLK and Anne Moody – Analysis
Martin Luther King Jr., the most significant figure in the civil rights movement, and Anne Moody, an oppressed African American women raised in rural Mississippi, parallel in fervor to bring about change in “The Movement” of Civil Rights in the mid twentieth century. Both of these characters seem to desire the ultimate goal of equality, and although they share this foundation, Coming of Age in Mississippi seems to reveal several major discontinuities between MLK’s suggested path and her own.
Historically, Martin Luther King Jr. is noted for preaching nonviolence: a principle employed and derived by Mahatma Gandhi. In his Letter From A Birmingham Jail, King notes, “Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?”1.
No matter the circumstance, King urged his followers to practice unyielding nonviolence. Towards the end of her novel, Anne Moody’s mentality on this firm principle of nonviolent protest begins to break. The amalgamation of Emmett Till’s murder, the Birmingham Church Bombing, and her own racism-stricken past, leads her to renounce this method of action. “As long as I live, I’ll never be beaten by a white man again…
You know something else, God? Nonviolence is out. I have a good idea Martin Luther King is talking to you, too. If he is, tell him that nonviolence has served its purpose.”2. Moody contains an almost uncontrollable youthful aggression, tied in with visions of anarchy and rebellion. “I felt like racing up and down between the tables, smashing food into their faces, breaking dishes over their heads, and all the time I would shout and yell Murderers…”2 Moody’s aggressive mindset seems distant from King’s level headedness, but justified given their disparity in age as well as their differing economic backgrounds and childhood experiences.
Although Moody’s mentality is notably aggressive, both of these individuals acknowledge that law-breaking, in some respects, is a necessary device to bring about change. King goes as far as to say “…one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”1. This shared core ideology stems from their well-educated pasts and their involvement in both the NAACP and CORE.
At the conclusion of the novel, Moody’s mentality and hope for “The Movement” is nearly depleted. Contrary to King’s persistent and optimistic outlook of a “dream”3 for equality, Moody now “wonders”2 if her efforts have had any effect and begins to suggest that this “dream” may never become a reality. The final nine chapters are headed “The Movement”, a title I feel ironically represents her personal transformation to question the effectiveness of the past and the outlook of the future. This is the quintessential difference between these two characters: a “dreamer” versus a “wonder(er)”. While Moody began to lose faith that their goal would never be attained, King never faltered.
Although these two had differing ideas about “The Movement”, their passion and will to create that change are indistinguishable.