Mammy and Art

On January 15, 2013, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

racist memorabilia

Anthropologie apologized this week for selling racist candlesticks. They included a mammy souvenir from Washington, D.C., and a stereotypical depiction of an Asian woman.

I’m not surprised they were for sale or that someone considered them art. I see mammy all the time in antique stores. She sits on a glass shelf with an affordable price tag. She is often flanked by others shaped as salt and pepper shakers, cookie jars, pretty much anything for the kitchen.

I study her for a moment. I look at her black face and her exaggerated features. I’m torn. Should I purchase her, take her off the market and put her in the closest closet or should I accidentally knock her from her pedestal and pay for my “mistake” so that no one can have her? No and no.

I can’t afford it on several levels. I walk on by. I forget mammy, until I see her again, sitting on a glass shelf with an affordable price tag.

  • Blanc2

    My wife’s sister collects these items, in a spirit sort of akin to John Savage’s early “Hey Faggot!” campaign to use the “f” word and thereby own it.

    • Honeysmoke

      I’ve contemplated doing this. There’s just so much of it out there. Hats off to your sister-in-law. 

  • Glenn Robinson

    And here’s a photo I found and some history of Aunt Jemima (Anna Robinson)

    • Honeysmoke


  • Melissa

    Here’s a website that addresses much of what you feel when you see these items:

    My grandmother was an invalid due to pernicious anemia.  She lost the use of her legs around the age of 50, so to compensate she developed her love of sewing, knitting and crocheting.  She created a set of 18″ soft cloth dolls which included a lovely Japanese girl in a kimono, a Dutch boy and girl and, yes, an Aunt Jemima.  I don’t know what happened to the others but I still have her.  (I’m 65, so the doll is at least that old.)  I have mixed feelings about her for the reasons you mention, but I have to admit that I love her because she reminds me of my grandmother and what a talented person she was.  We are (were) both Geminis and I know how difficult it must have been for her to be confined to her home.  I bring the doll out at Christmas to put under the tree with other old ornaments, Teddy bears, etc. 

    This year I didn’t have a tree because someone broke into our storage unit when we were in the process of moving and stole all of my Christmas decorations.   Gone are all the things my kids made over the years and some really old ornaments that belonged to my mother (who passed away just before Christmas) and my in-laws.  Most of the ornaments had only sentimental value so I’m sure they were tossed in the trash by the thief.  So, all I put out for decoration was the Teddy bears and Aunt Jemima.  She may be a negative symbol to many, understandably, but to me she speaks of love.

    (Sorry this comment is so long.)     

    • Honeysmoke

      Thank you!