port of harlem magazine
nubia k essentials
Mammy’s Revenge?
Aug 12 – Aug 25, 2021

ida jones

Our guest on Port Of Harlem Talk Radio on Thursday, August 5 was Dr. Ida Jones, Morgan State University archivist. The conversation, “Mammy’s Revenge?,” was partially based on film historian and author Donald Boogle’s book “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films,” which he released in 1973.

In the book, Bogle describes a mammy figure as "representative of the all-Black woman, over-weight, middle-aged, and so dark, so thoroughly black, that it is preposterous even to suggest that she be a sex object. Instead, she was desexed."

We discussed how almost 50 years after the book's release, we see women who could fit this description to some degree gain power and use it, including Stacey Abrams. Jones asserts that the “mammy” like figures are often seen as a threat because they could disrupt the current distribution of wealth. Young agreed, but added “The spreading of the wealth is probably the biggest threat, but the visual threat to me is (their) seeing someone like Stacy take on a man who has great reverence for Confederate statues.”

Later in the show, we pivoted to how about six years ago many news outlets highlighted how job applicants with ethnic minority sounding names are less likely to be called for an interview. However, we now see women with such names in power and also using it, including Kamala Harris.
“He is saying that he cannot wrap his tongue around this oddity. So, he is going to make fun of the object when, if fact, his hands are too small to hold it.”
Young recalled how now former Senator David Perdue (D-GA), on video at a Donald Trump for President rally, pronounced Harris’s name as: “Kamala, or Kamala, Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know,” with emphasis on various parts of her name. Young added, Perdue, who has a Master’s Degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, “seemed to take pride in being stupid.” 

Jones countered that while I see him glowing at being stupid, she sees him as trying to make her look like the problem versus himself. “He is saying that he cannot wrap his tongue around this oddity. So, he is going to make fun of the object when, if fact, his hands are too small to hold it.”

The fast-moving conversation stretched from Jones quickly quoting Kelly Miller to Strom Thurmond. It also included brief discussions of women from the past including Mary McLeod Bethune. Jones added that internal pressure from colorism and sexism affected people like Bethune when men often “preferred a Lena Horne type person to swoon and fawn over.”
However, like New York Attorney General Letitia James, “If you read the writings of Mrs. Bethune, she is very pointed in her comments,” said Jones as she paired the two. “She was very clear in her understanding of her value and the essence of what her presence symbolizes,” she concluded about Bethune and relating how her demeanor related to James’ - - as we discussed New York Governor Cuomo’s sexual assault troubles.

Jones, author of four biographies including "Baltimore Civil Rights Leader, Victorine Quille Adams and the Power of the Ballot,” concluded, “Black women make good leaders at this juncture “because we have been so far from the periphery that we know what the center should look idealistically.”

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