September 29, 2013 § 2 Comments
A new book from the Louisiana Press, The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South “shares the memories of black domestic workers and the white families they served, uncovering the often intimate relationships between maid and mistress. Based on interviews with over fifty people—both white and black—these stories deliver a personal and powerful message about resilience and resistance in the face of oppression in the Jim Crow South.” The authors, Katherine Van Wormer, David Walter Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth deftly address the conflicts, paradoxes and realities of African American women who worked in white homes and adds significantly to the sparse information about African American domestics.
Lewis R. Gordon, an Afro-Jewish philosopher, political thinker, educator, and musician, features the book in his blog and writes a beautiful tribute to ancestors who worked as domestics. “The Maid Narratives tells a story with which many of us are familiar and one that continues to be misrepresented in so many ways, as the movie 2011 movie The Help (which I found unbearable) attests. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
A friend of mine recently read some of the posts on the Just Like Family blog and offered the following. I was not raised by an African American woman, but we did have maids who cleaned for us throughout my childhood. The interaction was strange and strained…my parents were not welcoming. Although my mother was not vocally derisive, she did not seem to appreciate having them in our home. She was not interested in house-keeping, and my father, who was and is more outwardly racist, demanded that she hire someone to clean. Despite my parents, I’ve had numerous close friends who are African American. When I moved to Colorado, my partner in the adventure, was Jonathan, a black friend I met in college in Lafayette.
Having grown up in the south near New Orleans, I have a rich appreciation for the culture there. One of my favorite memories is, after having lived in Colorado for a long while, traveling back to New Orleans and just walking through a supermarket in Chalmette and listening to the ladies talk in the aisles. I remember being so tickled and feeling such a wave of nostalgia. Reading and then watching the movie of “The Help,” I identified with Skeeter’s bewilderment at beliefs and behaviors that were at odds with her own, and with her attacks on her parents statements and choices. I’ve experienced the same, having very public and vocal disagreements with my father when I couldn’t bear to hear him speak another disrespectful word about people I love. « Read the rest of this entry »
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 http://myemail.constantcontact.com/VISIONS–In-Our-Opinion–THE-HELP.html?soid=1102645492743&aid=eKJMe45QUvE#fblike. Visions provides consulting and training in diversity and inclusion. The article was forwarded to me via Coming To The Table, http://www.comingtothetable.org/, 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 www.sharedhistory.org, 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 http://www.abwh.org/ ) 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 http://www.virginia.edu/woodson/courses/hius324/peterkin.html) 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 www.justlikefamily.wordpress.com. 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 »