A Closer Study At ' Mammy '

1851 Words8 Pages
A closer study at "Mammy", the quintessential Southern African-American nanny, as the core icon of African-American womanhood, during the Civil War, particularly in films, who has figured prominently on memory, reveals that her depiction and characteristics skewed the collective and individual memory of the role of "real" African-American women, such as Harriet Tubman. This powerful figure in Southern households created stereotyped images of African American women slaves, i.e. Gone with the Wind (1939), allowing audiences to believe this to be an accurate depiction of African American women rather than recognizing the major contributions they made in the Civil War. The stereotype overshadowed the real efforts and work of African American women, both enslaved and freed; and left a false image which affected women then and now.
Particularly, in Civil War era films, African American women were predominantly shown as having a robust figure, a constant smile, and a happy disposition, i.e. mammies. “By the time the flood of Civil War features began in 1908, these racist cliches were set in stone” (Chadwick 80). The archetype of Mammy became a stereotype created by white producers in an effort to portray African American women in a more pleasing light, to satisfy white audiences. Filmmakers actions created an intensified racial stereotype and instilled a false image of African Americans. Chadwick called this “the Hollywood black”: a racial viewpoint filmmakers created about blacks.
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