Letters to the Museum

Reflections on Caricatures

Thank you for the very informative website. I teach as an adjunct professor in the Department of Pan African Studies at Kent State University. In the coursework for Black Experience I (pre-history to Civil War), and Black Experience II (Civil War to present), we cover the contradictory roles of AA women. In part one of the course, I have several lectures on the Jezebel, Mammy, Sambo, as on one hand caractures of us by white supremacy, and secondly presented because white supremacy and the slave system was fearful of the reality of a Nat Turner or Sojourner and Harriet, as the probable outcomes of a people fed up with the impact of slavery on their lives. In some ways the destruction of tools, playing dumb, setting fires, are simultaneously coping mechanisms that some slaves utilized. I do also understand the paternalist attitudes at work with the promotion of these caractures. This depiction continues today when one understands that Interscope Records did not want to hear Tupac's more progressive notions, but rather wanted to keep the OG (original Gansta) persona going as a means to sell more records/CD's. In discussing the Jezabel and Mammy caractures, consider Winthrop D. Jordon's "Initial English Confrontation with Africans," and Darlene Clark Hines' "Female Slave Resistance: The Economics of Sex." Both essays reveal the deep seated hatred that slave owners and the system of slavery had for AA women. In the Department, we use these essays among others in our entry level survey classes. I include "Without Sanctuary," a pictorial and essay on lynching as depicted in postcard art. I also appreciate your essays on the word Nigger.

Thank you for your website and efforts. I agree with your position that our youth do not understand the context of the words or the depictions or their artspeak in the current music industry. I will most certainly add your website as an opportunity for my students to educate themselves about their history. I will also pass this link on to my faculty co-instructors and teachers.

YOU are to be commended for staying the path...
Please use this with my permission...
Debra Calhoun
Kent State University
Department of Pan-African Studies
-- Jan. 18, 2005


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