JANS – Civil rights pioneer Anne Moody is now featured on the Mississippi Writers Trail (MWT) in Centreville. Her story is shared on an official marker on West Park Street North in The Louis Gaulden and Riquita Jackson Family Memorial Park, across from the Kevin Poole Van Cleave Library.
Moody, who wrote Coming of Age in Mississippi, and Mr. Death: Four Stories, was born and raised in Centreville. Both sides of the marker feature a biographical sketch of her life as a civil rights activist and her work as a writer.
The unveiling ceremony was organized by Maggie Lowery, Cultural Programs Manager for Visit Mississippi, and Felicia Williams, who serves as Alderwoman of Ward 1 in Centreville.
“It is my honor to be part of the program this morning,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council. “The Mississippi Writers Trail celebrates our state’s extraordinary literary heritage. We take tremendous pride in how great writers like Anne Moody took their experiences living in this sometimes difficult and complicated place to create profound art that has moved readers all across the world.”
Rockoff said Moody’s book affected him, a white man from Texas, on a personal level, after he read it in graduate school.
“The book has been widely assigned in universities because of its eloquent and bracing truth about the experience of growing up in a society profoundly shaped, or misshaped, by white supremacy,” he said, noting Moody grew up in a society that was “predicated on the idea that white lives matter more.”
According to Rockoff, the genius of Moody as a writer is how she was able to draw readers into her own experience. “We see the world of Jim Crow Mississippi through her eyes,” he said. “And once we experience this, we are forever changed.”
Rockoff was one of several people who spoke during the ceremony. John Moore, who serves as Centreville Mayor Pro Tempore and Alderman of Ward 3, provided the Invocation; Dr. Roscoe Barnes III, Chairman of the Anne Moody History Project, and Cultural Heritage Tourism manager for Visit Natchez, provided the Welcome. Barnes previously served as chaplain at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, the birthplace of the Anne Moody History Project.
Alderwoman Williams shared remarks and facilitated the unveiling. Reading from the marker’s biographical sketch, Williams described Moody as a heroine of the civil rights movement. In Coming of Age, she said, Moody “lucidly and eloquently articulates what it was like to grow up in poverty, to suffer racial discrimination, and to fight for social change as a civil rights activist.”
Moody died in 2015 at the age of 74. At the time of her death, she was living in Gloster, Miss. She will now join other famous writers like Eudora Welty, Margaret Walker, Elizabeth Spencer, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote, Walker Percy, and Ida B. Wells.
News of the marker was first shared by Williams in December 2019. She had been working with Lowery to secure a place for its location. According to Lowery, funding for the project was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.
The unveiling ceremony was initially set for March 31. However, it was postponed due to COVID-19.
Lowery attended the recent ceremony along with Kristen Brandt, Arts Industry Director for Mississippi Arts Commission, and Marion Barnwell, a Mississippi historian. A few local citizens that included children also turned out for the event.
The Mississippi Writers Trail is an initiative of the Mississippi Arts Commission, in partnership with the Community Foundation for Mississippi, Mississippi Book Festival, Mississippi Humanities Council, Visit Mississippi, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Library Commission.