Date of Award

6-27-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Candis LaPrade, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ellery Sedgewick, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jena A. Burges, Ph.D.

Abstract

From an image draped in calico and flipping pancakes to a figure wearing pearls and throwing hand grenades, Mammy exists as part of America's cultural heritage since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Mammy character evolved in American iconography from the subservient kitchen Aunt Jemima to a modem aggressive woman ready for military combat. Early depictions of Mammy show her as being very humble, plain in dress and appearance, and subservient to her white masters . In From Mammy to Miss America and Beyond, Sue Jewell states, "[Mammy] is portrayed as an obese African-American woman, of dark complexion, with extremely large breasts and buttocks and shining white teeth visibly displayed in a grin. Most portrayals of mammy depict her wearing a calico dress or the type of uniform worn by domestics" (39). Today, this nineteenth-century construct continues to confine and define African-American women. However, African-American artists and writers strive to transform the image of the black female icon that literary mythology helped to create into an independent model for black womanhood.

 
 

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