Images people once thought of as funny and humorous are now thought to be very hurtful and racial. Over eighty years ago, The Mammy was thought to be one of the most enduring images of the African-American woman. The Mammy grew out of slavery and the location of black women in the entanglement of social relations in a biracial slave society. The boundaries have been defined of the acceptable and unacceptable black female behavior. However, since time has elapsed the image of the Mammy has turned into a very negative one. It has become a difference of whites and blacks, for blacks it is apart of who they are and where they have come from and for the whites it is an image that is used in entertainment productions. The Mammy has a very unique physical appearance, has justified the racist economic system and has become an important staple of literature and television. Is she a simple depiction of an African American housekeeper or is she a racist stereotype perpetuated throughout popular culture from the times of slavery?
First, the Mammy image is one that will never be forgotten. Her physical presence suggests bodily strength and power, evidenced by her ability to work hard yet show no signs of fatigue. She is usually very fat, very dark, and wears a bandanna and a beaming smile as a sign of how much she enjoys her oppressed position. The Mammies appearance dignifies who she is and what she represents. Developed after the World War I, the Mammy became the historical figure of the African American woman (Rhodes). She became a symbol of "oppressive social relations based on race, gender, and class,"(Thomas).
One of the most important aspects of the Mammy figure is her submissiveness and docility. The Mammy was a slave who posed no threat to the White family or to the power structure of slavery. She is conventionally valued for her reassuring gentleness, as an armed warrior. Along with a mop in her right hand, she holds a weapon in her left hand....
Cited: Bogle, Donald. "Losing the Race: Self Sabotage in Black America." Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television 05 March 2001: 520. eLibrary. College of the Canyons Library, Santa Clarita, CA. 16 April 2002
Edwards, Bob and Joshua Levs. Southern Women and Memories of Slavery, Part One. Morning Edition 28 December 1998. eLibrary. College of the Canyons Library, Santa Clarita, CA. 16 April 2002
Rhodes, Chip. Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima." The Journal of American History 15 December 2000. Proquest. College of the Canyons Library, Santa Clarita, CA. 16 April 2002
Thomas, Sabrina Lynette. "Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima."
Transforming Anthropology 15 December 2001. Proquest. College of the Canyons Library, Santa Clarita, CA. 16 April 2002
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