HISTORY 102 0002
American History Since 1877
November 27 2012
Life in Mississippi in the 1940’s and 1950’s
Growing up in Mississippi was extremely harsh and dangerous for African Americans in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The coming of age in Mississippi was a good example of firsthand experience of the living conditions, daily life, work, schooling, and violence in the South. Anne Moody experienced life with all kinds of White people. Some White people were kind and loving towards Moody. Some White people were racist and mean to Moody. The Moody family lacked nutritional food and basic living necessities. Mississippi was one of the hardest states for African Americans to live in the 1940’s and 1950’s due to racism. After growing up in Mississippi Moody knew that when she turned 18 and graduated from high school she wanted to move away from Centreville and go to college to be free of White racism.
The living conditions for many African Americans in Mississippi where worse than animals. They lived in shacks that were made out of rotten wood. The shacks were previously used as slave’s quarters before the abolition of slavery. Many living quarters for African Americans were comparable to the barns that plantation owner’s animals lived in, only worst. Moody’s family moved from many different shacks when her parents would switch jobs. They normally were crowded and had little furniture. They did not have real walls, only wall paper and cardboard to cover the holes (Moody p. 3). Most African American families would live on the plantations that they worked. They would all sleep in one room and eat, cook, bath, and congregate in the other (Moody p.30). Most of the shacks didn’t have plumbing or toilets indoors. African Americans would use outdoor toilets and take baths in a metal tubs, a barrel, or an animal feeder. Plantation life was similar to life as a slave. African Americans would sharecrop or farm for the White plantation owners in exchange for housing and low wages. White people had owned a lot of land that needed to be farmed. There were many shacks that available for African Americans to live in on the plantations. Moody grew up in a shack right next door to a huge beautiful mansion on top of a hill that overlooked the other shacks (Moody p. 3). African Americans knew that animals were living better than them and their children. African Americans hoped for a better future and work hard every day. They learned to be content with their lives and the slow change in equality.
Debt replaced the whip of slavery. Poverty replaced the burden of free work. The right of being free came with a larger price of starvation and a poor living standard. When African Americans were freed, they had to find a way to put a roof over their family’s head and provide their own meals. When African Americans were slaves it was the owner’s job to feed them and provide housing. In exchanged they would get free labor and make a huge profit. The plantation owners decided what to pay the African American workers. Unfortunately, they also decided on how much to charge for them to live on their land while they worked it.
The daily lives of Southern African Americans were harsh and back breaking. In Moody’s childhood; long days of being left alone was normal. Many parents only option was to go to work and leave their children at home by themselves. There was always a risk of death, mistreatment, or accidents when parents left their kids alone. Fires were common and they consumed the whole shack within minutes, because the wood was dry and rotten. Their stoves were a huge fire hazard in the shacks. Some raciest White people would set the houses on fire too. Moody’s family lost one house to Jr. (Moody’s brother) knocking over the stove (Moody p. 29). Moody’s cousin Gorge Lee set the wall paper on fire while babysitting (Moody p. 8). Moody had been beaten by her cousin and Diddly (Moody’s biological father). Family violence in the