• Trudier Harris


Aunt Jemima is certainly one of the most prominent images of African American women in American culture, but it is not the only one. How this image of the large, strong, happy, asexual cook joined the mammy figure, the suprahuman endurer, and the Christian hard worker to dominate black female representation in a variety of genres is a fascinating strand in American history. The black female body—with passing connection to reality—was manufactured for white public consumption, whether in print or visual media, or on the stage. Even more fascinating is how such images, especially that of the strong black woman, were embraced within African American culture and eventually found their way into and dominated female portrayal in African American literature. This embracing suggests that black acceptance of these images served financial, psychological, and cultural functions. The appearance of these images in African American literature and their evolution over more than a century suggests that African American writers were just as complicitous as the white-created mythology surrounding black women in ensuring that strong, asexual representations of black female characters dominated the literature in the twentieth century and threaten to continue that domination in the twenty-first century.


Black Woman Black People Female Character Family Reunion African American Culture 
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  34. Michele Wallace’s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1978) was also controversial in its exploration of strong black women, particularly in their political and interracial relationships, as well as in their romantic relationships (or lack thereof) with black men. Many of the women I treat do not have the public power traditionally expected of matriarchs, and only one of them is sexually active.Google Scholar

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© Trudier Harris 2001

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  • Trudier Harris

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