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The portrayal of Mammy in the movie Gone with the Wind describes a caricature of a slave woman from the South. This caricature is a model for how Americans during the late 1930’s envisioned Civil War era South. The mammy of the movie represented a house slave that was devoted to the plantation mistress. The portrayal of the mammy represented fictional characters in movies and in literature such as in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gone with the Wind.  As expressed in the movie, Mammy is a person that acts as a mother figure for Scarlett O’Hara, but is conspicuously absent at other times. When Scarlett visits Rhett Butler in jail, accompaniment by her mammy legitimizes her visit. As Scarlett walks through Atlanta, Mammy serves as her protector, knocking away other Negros in order to make sure her charge is untouched and unharmed. However, as Scarlett goes in to Frank Kennedy’s general store, Mammy stays outside.  She and the other house slaves portrayed ignorant people who live to do their masters bidding, and do not know how to behave until they are told how to behave.

Hattie McDaniel, after playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind, was typecast as a housemaid for many other roles. She was quoted as saying, “Why should I complain about making seven thousand dollars a week playing a maid? If I didn’t I’d be making 7 dollars a week being a maid.”[1]

Americans during the late 1930’s also looked to black characters in negative roles. The musical Porgy and Bess portrayed African Americans living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina.  The photo of the drunken black man appeared in The New Yorker in 1935. Still held in the grips of the Jim Crow era, African Americans were still being perceived as the fictional Mammie in Gone with the Wind.


[1]Donald Bogle. Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks: An interpretive history of Blacks in American films (New York, NY: Continuum) 1994, accessed from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/ on 6/14/12.  hhttphttp://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/Co