Black History: Special Delivery!!
In 1923, The U.S. Senate approved a bill by Charles Stedman of North Carolina. The “Mammy” monument bill was proposed on behalf of the Jefferson Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of The Confederacy. Stedman reported to his Senate colleagues that slave mammies desired no change in their condition of life. He also stated, “The very few who are left look back at those days as the happy golden hours of their lives.”
African Americans, led by the black press and civil rights groups were staunch opponents of the impending bill. They organized protests and started a petition against the monument bill. The Baltimore Afro American shared its own vision for the planned monument; suggesting, that it portray a frowning mammy perched atop a wash tub with the inscription: “In Grateful Memory to One We Never Paid a Cent of Wages During a Lifetime of Service.” The African American community also voiced strong opposition to the stereotypical portrayal of the affectionate relationships between slave masters and aging slave women who seemed never to have their own families. One newspaper suggested that a more accurate monument would be to portray a “white daddy”, sexually assaulting a young black woman as a mammy looks on; helpless and unable to intervene. The model selected portrayed a seated Mammy holding an infant at her breast, seated within a fountain. It was called, “The Fountain of Truth”. Some supporters suggested that the money would be better used on, “bettering conditions of the mammies children. “
The monument bill had to pass through a House Committee before receiving final approval. However, Congress adjourned without taking further action. Ironically during the same time period, anti-lynching legislation was also struck down. Sadly the Mammy figure has been sculpted into monuments. At Confederate Park in South Carolina, a monument was unveiled in 1900 “dedicated to faithful slaves”. The statue portrays a mammy cradling a baby. Also, in 1914, another monument was also unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery. It was dedicated to the “Dead Heroes” of the Confederacy. The monument is located near the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. The monument portrays a heavyset mammy, holding a white child up for a departing confederate soldier to embrace. For decades, there have been numerous attempts from Aunt Jemima to Gone With The Wind to re-write history in terms of how slaves and the institution of slavery were portrayed. Thank you to the activists, individuals, and organizations who expose and advocate against these racist portrayals.
Did you miss yesterday’s post? Click here to learn about Lincoln University and its connection to Albert Einstein.