Black Female Artists Tackle The Dangerous Stereotypes That Have Never Defined Them

Mildred Howard, “I’ve Been a Witness to this Game IX,” color monoprint/digital on found paper with collage, 2016.

article by Priscilla Frank via huffingtonpost.com

The pop culture landscape is littered with lazy images of black women ― the nurturer, the hussy, the angry bitch. Hovering around the all-encompassing myth of the “strong black woman,” those paper-thin characterizations fail to represent real women in all their complexity and vulnerability.

Despite the monolithic representations that appear so often in TV series, advertisements, films and the imaginations of those who digest them, artists have long worked to provide images that speak to the depth and sweet fallibility of all human beings ― black women included.

An exhibition at the Alexandria Museum of Art, titled “Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women,” deconstructs the limiting categorizations mainstream culture allows black women. The artists on view reveal the shoddy nature of the stereotypes in favor of challenging, poetic and thorough visualizations of black culture ― the myth, the archetype, the self-portrait and beyond.

Characterizations commonly ascribed to black women in America are both historical and insidious. The Mammy ― a big-bosomed, jolly mother figure ― was written fictitiously into history to make slavery appear more humane. Her illusory existence suggested that there could, in fact, be such a thing as a happy slave. Today, the Mammy is often framed as a sexless, selfless nurturer.

Then there’s the Jezebel ― an overly sexualized, promiscuous black woman ― with a similarly atrocious origin story: her image was used to justify the sexual violence systematically inflicted upon black women in the antebellum South. Its influence persists to this day, making it more difficult for rape allegations by black women to be taken seriously.

And finally, the show addresses the image of Sapphire, named for the one-dimensional character on the radio and TV show “Amos ‘n’ Andy” ― an angry black woman. This cultural generalization, too, is a corollary of slavery and oppression. It calls back to a time when history overlooked the atrocities committed against black families and suggests instead that black women are inherently hostile, a foil to the delicate femininity of white women.
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BLACK HISTORY: Sarah Bailey Center in GA Named for Leader Who Organized Black Girl Scout Troops in 1940s

Educator and Missionary Sarah Bailey (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Sarah Randolph Bailey, born 1885 in to freed slaves, was a longtime educator and missionary who saw the value in troubled young girls and volunteered her time to provide guidance.

After earning her teaching degree and working at a rehabilitation and detention center for girls in Macon, Georgia, Bailey had the vision to organize young women for the Young Women’s Christian Association’s (YWCA) Girl Reserves group.

In 1935, Bailey gathered informal groups of Black girls and started giving them the opportunity to learn life skills and lessons, much like their white counterparts in the Girl Scouts. After organizing some 15 Girl Reserve troops in Georgia, Girl Scouts, U.S.A. took notice and invited Bailey to organize the first Black Girl Scouts troop in Macon. (The Girl Scouts started integrating troops in 1913 and the first African-American troop formed in 1917.) Bailey’s group was formally introduced as official Scouts in 1948.

“I shall be rewarded on Earth according to the way I’ve lived. To me, a healthy body, sound mind, and equal opportunities mean more than wealth; and happiness and success are the products of our gifts to the world and of our fairness and sincerity to ourselves and others.” — Sarah Randolph Bailey

Bailey was also named the chairwoman for the Macon Girl Scout’s Central Committee and earned the “Thanks” badge, the Scouts’ highest honor given to an adult. In 1961, a permanent campsite was named in her honor. She also worked as a district and council leader before passing in 1972. In 1994, The Macon Girl Scouts Center was renamed the Sarah Bailey Service Center. She was also the subject of a dedicated exhibit at Macon’s Tubman Museum in 2014.

A video about Bailey’s life and service to helping shape and empower young women can be seen here.

Original source: Little Known Black History Fact: Sarah Bailey | Black America Web

Yale University to Drop White Supremacist John Calhoun’s Name From Building

article by Noah Remnick via nytimes.com

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced today that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

Mr. Salovey and the other members of the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing body, made their decision after an advisory committee unanimously recommended the renaming. The school is still determining when exactly the change will be carried out, but Mr. Salovey said it would be by fall at the latest. Continue reading

BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington

512y-xth0ilarticle by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

MOUNT VERNON, Va. — The costumed characters at George Washington’s gracious estate here are used to handling all manner of awkward queries, whether about 18th-century privies or the first president’s teeth. So when a visitor recently asked an African-American re-enactor in a full skirt and head scarf if she knew Ona Judge, the woman didn’t miss a beat.

Judge’s escape from the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1796 had been “a great embarrassment to General and Lady Washington,” the woman said, before offering her own view of the matter.“Ona was born free, like everybody,” she said. “It was this world that made her a slave.”

It’s always 1799 at Mount Vernon, where more than a million visitors annually see the property as it was just before Washington’s death, when his will famously freed all 123 of his slaves. That liberation did not apply to Ona Judge, one of 153 slaves held by Martha Washington.

But Judge, it turned out, evaded the Washingtons’ dogged (and sometimes illegal) efforts to recapture her, and would live quietly in New Hampshire for another 50 years. Now her story — and the challenge it offers to the notion that Washington somehow transcended the seamy reality of slaveholding — is having its fullest airing yet.  Judge is among the 19 enslaved people highlighted in “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon,” the first major exhibition at Mount Vernon dedicated to the topic (it runs through 2018, check link above for details).

She is also the subject of a book, “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Most scholars who have written about Judge’s escape have used it as a lens onto Washington’s evolving ideas about slavery. But “Never Caught,” published this Tuesday by 37 Ink, flips the perspective, focusing on what freedom meant to the people he kept in bondage. “We have the famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” Ms. Dunbar, a professor of black studies and history at the University of Delaware, said in an interview in Mount Vernon’s 18th-century-style food court. “But decades before them, Ona Judge did this. I want people to know her story.”

Research on slavery has exploded in the two decades since Mount Vernon, Monticello and other founder home sites introduced slavery-themed tours and other prominent acknowledgments of the enslaved. “Lives Bound Together”  was originally going to fill one 1,100-square-foot room in the museum here, but soon expanded to include six other galleries normally dedicated to the decorative and fine arts, books and manuscripts.

An installation about Ona Judge, often referred to by the diminutive Oney, in the exhibition “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” (Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

The exhibition makes it clear just who poured from the elegant teapots and did the backbreaking work on the 8,000-acre estate. But integrating the harsh reality of slavery into the heroic story of Washington — “a leader of character,” as the title of the permanent exhibition across from the slavery show calls him — remains unfinished work, some scholars say. Continue reading

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Cornell University Makes 19th Century Black America Photo Archive Available to Public


article via theguardian.com

Cornell University in New York has made a priceless photographic archive available to the public.  It shows the lives of black Americans as they rose through society after the antebellum era. To see all photographs, go to: Loewentheil Collection of African American Photographs

To see original article, go to: A taste of freedom: black America in the 19th century – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Inspiring Stories of African Americans to Air on Disney Channel this February

article via ShadowAndAct.com

To cultivate kids’ deeper interest in history and inspire them to feel their own significance in the present and future, stories about distinguished men and women including the Tuskegee Airmen Chief Civilian flight instructor Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson, the history-making commercial airline pilot Stephanie R. Grant, animator and Disney legend Floyd Norman, and physician, role model and activist Dr. Myiesha Taylor, will be presented as part of Disney|ABC Television Group’s “Be Inspired” interstitial series during Black History Month on Disney Channel, Disney 😄 and Disney Junior.

Paul DeBenedittis, senior vice president, Programming Strategy, Disney Channels Worldwide, said, “As television programmers, we work every day to better serve our kid viewers by reflecting the diverse and varied world they live in, and our ‘Be Inspired’ programming is designed to give them access to stories that can spark their deeper exploration into the rich and celebrated history of African Americans.”

The initiative begins with the story of acclaimed African-American pilot Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson Sr., known as the “Father of Black Aviation” for his brave and innovative leadership as Chief Civilian Flight Instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen. The story, hosted by Nathaniel Potvin (Disney XD’s “MECH-X4”), originates from the non-profit Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Compton, California, and includes the museum’s founder and executive director Robin Petgrave, Ted Lumpkin of the Tuskegee Airmen 100th Fighter Squadron, and Kimberly Anyadike, the youngest African-American female to pilot an airplane across the United States. Geared toward kids age 6-14, the interstitial began airing Weds, Feb 1, on Disney Channel and Disney XD.

For younger viewers (age 2-7), Doc McStuffins, the title character from the acclaimed animated series, introduces notable women and men in a series of interstitials to be presented on Disney Junior. They are Stephanie R. Grant, a pilot who led the first all-female African-American flight crew to operate a commercial airliner; Disney legend Floyd Norman, one of the first African-American animators at Walt Disney Studios during the 1950s; and Dr. Myiesha Taylor, an emergency doctor and founder of the Artemis Medical Society, an organization comprised of over 4700 women physicians of color from around the world. Disney Junior and Disney Channel will debut the interstitials beginning Weds, Feb, 8.

To read more, go to: Inspiring Stories of Distinguished African Americans to be Presented During Black History Month on Disney Channels – Shadow and Act

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Becomes Reality

This photo provided by the U.S. Department of Interior shows Harriet Tubman’s home, now officially recognized as a national park. U.S. Department of Interior (photo via nbcnews.com)

article by Associated Press via nbcnews.com

Federal parks officials have formally established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in upstate New York. Members of the state’s congressional delegation joined U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Washington, D.C., for the official signing ceremony last month that makes the park part of the National Park Service system. It encompasses the site of Tubman’s old home on the outskirts of Auburn, about 25 miles west of Syracuse, and a nearby church where she worshipped.

The New York park will focus on Tubman’s work later on in her life when she was an active proponent of women’s suffrage and other causes. It will be a sister park to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.

“These two parks preserve and showcase a more complete history of one of America’s pivotal humanitarians who, at great personal risk, did so much to secure the freedom of hundreds of formerly enslaved people,” Secretary Jewell said. “Her selfless commitment to a more perfect union is testament that one determined person, no matter her station in life or the odds against her, can make a tremendous difference.”

To read full article: Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Becomes Reality – NBC News