Balanced review of THE HELP by VISIONS’ Executive Director

September 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Visions, Inc. executive director Dr. Valerie Batts has written a straight forward and balanced view of The Help that I wanted to share.  The link is–In-Our-Opinion–THE-HELP.html?soid=1102645492743&aid=eKJMe45QUvE#fblikeVisions provides consulting and training in diversity and inclusion.  The article was forwarded to me via Coming To The Table,  a program that is addressing the legacy of slavery in the US through stories related to slavery’s legacies under the topics of history, healing, connecting and action.  Coming to the Table members are descendants of enslaved people and slaveowners from the same plantation property before the Civil War.  The orgainzation was launched when people whose ancestors were connected through an enslaved/enslaver relationship realized they had a shared story that remained untold. Today, they and many others believe that the legacies and aftermath of slavery impact our nation in seen and unseen ways and they are committed to writing and telling a new story about our nation’s past and the promise of our collective future. 

Also see, my own story of descendants coming together at Woodlands Plantation in South Carolina.


September 15, 2011 § 4 Comments

THE HELP: A “Satan Sandwich?”    

I read the book The Help last year and have seen the movie now twice.  I’ve read at least 13 film reviews (from the New York Times and the Rolling Stone to the Christian Science Monitor and the Hollywood Reporter) as well as several academic responses (see the rather strident statement from the Association of Black Women Historians at ) and innumerable comments from bloggers. From a term used recently by Representative Emanuel Cleaver regarding the August debt deal, it seems that The Help has created a “satan sandwich” of its own.

Despite all of the laments about stereotypes and the question about whether whites can write about black experience (check out the 1921 Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Peterkin at and the creation of two new magical negro characters (see The Rumpus blog below for an illuminating description), I  decided I like “The Help.” I appreciate the struggle of the director to create a film on the subject of “help” in the 1960s.  It would be controversial from any point of view.  I’ve been looking at the issues of the impact of African American domestics on the white children they raised in the blog at  I hope to open discussion about this complex and sometimes perplexing relationship and invite the biological children of the domestics to weigh in on what it was like to have their mother raise white children. « Read the rest of this entry »

Help For The Junior League

September 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Help for the Junior League 

Reviewers and bloggers have talked little about the stereotypes of white people created by the recent movie, The Help.  The portrayal of the white women of the Junior League made me wince as much as the portrayals of some of the African American women, so I thought I would provide some information about the real Junior League.   The Junior League is an international organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism and to improving the community through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.  In my hometown of Greenville, SC, a local group of women, which included my great aunt, started a Junior Charities in 1929.  My mother was president of the organization in the fifties, when it became the Junior League of Greenville.  My older sister was president from 1983 to 1984. 

In the 1970s, it was my time to join.  I declined to be considered for membership because I felt it was an elitist organization mostly based on someone’s idea of who “came from a good family” and who had social status.  (Now, I realize, those with social connections are usually the most effective fundraisers.)  And there were no black members then. According to the Greenville, SC, 2011 manual, after a period of organizational soul searching beginning in the 1980s , the first black woman was invited to join the Greenville Junior League in 1988.  A multi-League diversity task force initiative and a joint service partnership with the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a national black women’s sorority, was conducted in 1993.  The national Association of Junior League International elected its first black president in 1998.  « Read the rest of this entry »

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