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Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America Hardcover – November 30, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0674024335 ISBN-10: 0674024338 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


Few American icons have been as comforting or as destructive as the black mammy. If lynching was the brutal face of white supremacy, Aunt Jemima and her ilk were the face of the white fantasy of harmonious race relations. With exceptional scholarly craft, McElya reveals the distortions, hardships, and tragedy that the smiling face and jovial demeanor of the mythic black mammy were intended to obscure. This book signals the arrival of a talented new historian. (W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory)

Americans loved Aunt Jemima and their mammies. There is no more powerful and damaging popular symbol in American culture than the faithful slave in all its manifestations. McElya's sensitive, surprising, and enlightening book will make readers wonder at how desperate white America was to believe that slaves were loyal and content. This book is painfully marvelous scholarship that should reach a broad readership. (David Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory)

McElya's powerful blend of cultural and political history illuminates the ways twentieth-century white Southerners tried to maintain their historic privilege while denying the violence of their past. Following the trajectory from Aunt Jemima to Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen," Clinging to Mammy traces white Americans' efforts to define, coerce and reap the benefits of African American women's labor while maintaining a firm grip on political power. (Jane Dailey, author of Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia)

McElya shows vividly how "mammy" serves as a perfect archetype for analyzing cultural politics of race and gender, and how they changed. She gives us parlor theatrics, courtroom drama, legislative debate, and movement politics. This is a wonderfully expansive book. (Scott A Sandage, author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America)

Details the tenacious hold of the “mammy” myth of contented colored folk on white public imagination. (Multidiversity: Myers Book Commentary 2008-01-01)

About the Author

Micki McElya is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Connecticut

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