Making Mammy: A Caricature of Black Womanhood, 1840–1940
One of the most pervasive stereotypes constructed during the post-Civil War era, and arguably the most enduring image from the days of Jim Crow, the mammy was a staple caricature in the romanticization of the Antebellum South. Popularized into the twentieth century by characters such as “Mammy” in MGM’s hit film Gone with the Wind (1939), this archetype of black domestic servitude was often depicted as good-natured, overweight, and loud. Presenting an ahistorical view of black womanhood within southern plantation hierarchies, the mammy not only embellished the realities of black life in the American South, but it also denied African American women their femininity, beauty, and strength.
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