Within the first discussion of African American female domestic workers, the idea of mammy; a black nursemaid or nanny in charge of white children, was brought up. Gone With The Wind, a movie released on January 19, 1940 displayed a character played by Hattie McDaniel during the post civil war era who continued to serve and raise the family that were formerly her slave owners. Hattie McDaniel – was the first African American woman to win an Oscar for her performance as Mammy.
Within this role, McDaniel, portrayed what many African American domestic workers were going through at the time. Her character catered to the family, she raised the main character Scarlet since she was a child. Mammy acts as an intelligent bacon of southern respect, hospitality, and manners. Often times when mammy has something to say, the characters surrounding her find meaning, truth, and wisdom in what she says. Upon watching the film it was clear that despite her intellect she was nameless. Mammy had no mention of family, love, aspirations, and or hopes of her own. Much like how black domestic workers felt during the era in which the film came out, Mammy was left leading a life that put the lives of her former slave owners before her own at all times. Within the film her ‘Mammy archetype’ positions her as finding more value in being loyal to her masters than freedom. This goes as far to depict her fighting a couple black soldiers that she felt could harm her masters. She is praised for her obedience. This position that she is in as Mammy depicts the racist narrative that black women value their servitude more than they could anything els within their own lives.
Read About It Here
In class on Thursday, we discussed how Black women in high positions are often given the stereotype that we are mean. This stood out to me because as we are reading the novel Household Workers Unite, we see how Black women who are more “obedient” are basically being taking advantage of. They have to work holidays, can never miss a day, and are not given the respect that they deserve. Black women have to work twice as hard to compete with a Black man and three times harder just to compete with a white woman. If a Black woman acts shy or timid when trying to make it to the top then its more than likely that people will walk over her. But, when a Black woman is all about her business and doesn’t take crap from anyone she’s seen as a “bitch” or “mean”. It’s not hard to see why people are intimidated by Black women, we’re just amazing, but this stereotype that is constantly placed on us is tired and very old.
Here is a really cool interview I found with Rep. Lauren Underwood talking about how she learned a lot and was deeply inspired by Shirley Chisolm. While we were watching the film about Chisolm in class, I found myself wondering “how well would she do if she ran in the 2020 election. While I’m not saying that Rep. Lauren Underwood is exactly like Chisolm, it is interesting to see how Chisolm’s influence and legacy carries on in present politics.
You might know “Summertime”, a unique hit found on Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1958 album “Porgy and Bess”. Ella Fitzgerald, nicknamed First Lady in Song had an outstanding voice so it was hard for venues to turn her down on the basis of her race. Her mother Tempie, passed away when she was 15. Fitzgerald took her chance when she won a drawing at the Apollo Theater in 1934. She launched her career that night, and few years later found herself playing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Norman Ganz, her manager did not tolerate racism. He took off “White Only” signs wherever the band toured. Fitzgerald was constantly harassed, turned down by clubs, forced off a plane in Australia in order to provide more seats for white patrons. Although Fitzgerald was not politically involved, she opened the gates for future young African Americans with her confidence and resilience. In 1975, the NAACP presented Fitzgerald with the President’s Award.
Jordan Peele’s movie creations including “Get Out” in 2017 and chilling tale of doppelgangers “Us” released just weeks ago both star black families. The movies are not similar plot-wise, “Get Out” alludes to systemic racism still lurking in the present day. In “Us” however, the main character Adelaide finds her doppelganger, who comes back to haunt her thirty years later. The foundation of the plot for this movie is based on Hands Across America movement, a real event that occurred in 1986. Adelaide is played by actor Lupita Nyong’o (also in “12 Years A Slave”) is shown as a resilient, and strong mother. The progression of her character throughout movie is worth noting. Her doppelganger (Red) thinks and acts the same way she does, but towards the end of movie Adelaide becomes increasingly more violent than Red. Instead of being portrayed as a stay at home mother who depends on her husband, Adelaide is the main character, and it is she who faces Red alone in the amusement park. By the end, the audience can clearly see the sympathy, pain and love for their kin instilled in both characters, above and below ground.