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Jo Ann Gibson Robinson (1987), a biographer of the Civil Rights Movement, described the limited opportunities for black women in the 1950s: Jobs for clerks in dimestores, cashiers in markets, and telephone operators were numerous, but were not open to black women. She was, of course, a figment of the white imagination, a nostalgic yearning for a reality that never had been.
A fifty-dollar-a-week worker could employ a black domestic to clean her home, cook the food, wash and iron clothes, and nurse the baby for as little as twenty dollars per week. 107) During slavery only the very wealthy could afford to "purchase" black women and use them as "house servants," but during Jim Crow even middle class white women could hire black domestic workers. Mammy was "black, fat with huge breasts, and head covered with a kerchief to hide her nappy hair, strong, kind, loyal, sexless, religious and superstitious" (Christian, 1980, pp. She spoke bastardized English; she did not care about her appearance. The real-life black domestics of the Jim Crow era were poor women denied other opportunities.
Records do acknowledge the presence of female slaves who served as the "right hand" of plantation mistresses.
Yet documents from the planter class during the first fifty years following the American Revolution reveal only a handful of such examples.
In the primary records from before the Civil War, hard evidence for its existence simply does not appear.(pp.
201-202) According to Patricia Turner (1994), Professor of African American and African Studies, before the Civil War only very wealthy whites could afford the luxury of "utilizing the (black) women as house servants rather than as field hands" (p. Moreover, Turner claims that house servants were usually mixed raced, skinny (blacks were not given much food), and young (fewer than 10 percent of black women lived beyond fifty years).
She had great love for her white "family," but often treated her own family with disdain.
Although she had children, sometimes many, she was completely desexualized.
The standard for mammy depictions was offered by Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 book, .During slavery, the mammy caricature was posited as proof that blacks -- in this case, black women -- were contented, even happy, as slaves.Her wide grin, hearty laugher, and loyal servitude were offered as evidence of the supposed humanity of the institution of slavery.Abolitionists claimed that one of the many brutal aspects of slavery was that slave owners sexually exploited their female slaves, especially light-skinned ones who approximated the mainstream definition of female sexual attractiveness.The mammy caricature was deliberately constructed to suggest ugliness.