Civil rights pioneer Anne Moody is now featured on the Mississippi Writers Trail (MWT) in Centerville. Her story is shared on an official marker on West Park Street North in the Louis Gaulden and Riquita Jackson Family Memorial Park, opposite the Kevin Poole Van Cleave Library.
Moody, who wrote Coming of Age in Mississippi, and Mr. Death: Four Stories, was born and raised in Centerville. Both sides of the marker feature a biography of her life as a civil rights activist and her work as a writer.
The unveiling ceremony was hosted by Maggie Lowery, Cultural Programs Manager for Visit Mississippi, and Felicia Williams, who is City Councilor for Ward 1 in Centerville.
“It is an honor for me to be a 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 are extremely proud of how great writers like Anne Moody have drawn on their experiences of living in this sometimes difficult and complicated place to create profound art that has moved readers around the world.
Rockoff said Moody’s book affected him, a white man from Texas, on a personal level after reading it in high school.
“The book has been widely credited with academia because of its eloquent and life-giving truth about the experience of growing up in a society deeply shaped, or distorted, by white supremacy,” he said, noting that Moody has grew up in a society that was “predicted on the idea that white people’s lives matter more.
According to Rockoff, Moody’s genius as a writer is how she was able to draw readers into her own experience. “We see the world of Jim Crow Mississippi through his eyes,” he said. “And once we experience it, we are changed forever.”
Rockoff was one of the many who spoke at the ceremony. John Moore, who is Mayor of Centerville Pro Tempore and Ward 3 City Councilor, provided the invocation; Dr Roscoe Barnes III, President of the Anne Moody History Project and Head of Cultural Heritage Tourism for Visit Natchez, offered the welcome. Barnes was previously chaplain at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, home of the Anne Moody History Project.
Alderman Williams shared remarks and facilitated the unveiling. Reading Marker’s biographical sketch, Williams described Moody as a heroine of the civil rights movement. In Coming of Age, she said, Moody “expresses lucidly and eloquently what it was like to grow up in poverty, to suffer from 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, Mississippi. 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 worked with Lowery to secure a spot for her location. According to Lowery, funding for the project was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.
The unveiling ceremony was originally set for March 31. However, it was postponed due to COVID-19.
Lowery attended the recent ceremony with Kristen Brandt, director of arts industry for the Mississippi Arts Commission, and Marion Barnwell, a Mississippi historian. A few local citizens, including children, also attended the event.
The Mississippi Writers Trail is an initiative of the Mississippi Arts Commission, in partnership with the Community Foundation for Mississippi, the Mississippi Book Festival, the Mississippi Humanities Council, Visit Mississippi, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Library Commission.