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Mammy

  • By: Andrea Powell
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Mammy is a figure based in historical fact but exaggerated in American cultural memory as an icon of the Old South. The stereotype of the mammy pays tribute to the plantation system by idealizing the relationships, real and imagined, that existed between black nannies and white children, and it continues to circumscribe perceptions of and attitudes toward black womanhood. Two popular figures who helped to crystallize the stereotype of the mammy during the early 20th century, and who continue to endorse a national nostalgia for the antebellum South, are Aunt Jemima, a pancake mix trademark, and Mammy of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.

Nanny, Maid, Cook, and Friend—But Still Slave

In the antebellum South, the label mammy was applied to an enslaved black woman who ...

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