One day in 1967, Audre Lorde, a Black woman who was a noted poet, writer and activist, was out shopping at the supermarket. Her two-year old daughter was along for the ride in the shopping cart, like many other children with their parents. A young White girl in her mother’s shopping cart passed Lorde and her daughter and when she saw Lorde’s daughter, she called out, “Oh look, Mommy, a baby maid!”
The idea that Black women are maids was so strong that even for this very young child, that is the first thought she has about a Black girl. Because this incident took place in 1967, it is easy to think that those kinds of ideas were common then, but wouldn’t be heard today. In fact, portrayals of Black women as servants and maids continue to be widespread, particularly in film and television.
When Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 2011 for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in The Help, she became the sixth African-American woman to win an Oscar. While Spencer’s acting may have been excellent, the troubling fact remains that of all the roles Black women have played, in many movies, for many decades, this is the role that the Academy Award decided to reward with an Oscar. A role where Spencer plays a maid. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is responsible for deciding who will win the awards, is mostly men, and 90% White. Patricia Hill Collins argues that “because the authority to define societal values is a major instrument of power, elite groups, in exercising power, manipulate ideas about Black womanhood. They do so by exploiting already existing symbols, or creating new ones.”  The idea about Black womanhood that is exploited here is the notion of Black women being servants or mammies. ... continue reading>>http://racismstillexists.tumblr.com/post/28816737901/representations-of-black-people-in-film
In 1939 Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award. McDaniel received the Oscar for her performance as Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Like Stepin Fetchit, McDaniel was criticized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for taking a role portraying the stereotype of a servile mammy. As McDaniel was one of the best known black actors of that period and she built her career by playing servants, she was a natural target for the NAACP. During the 1930s and 1940s the NAACP put a great deal of effort into addressing the negative portrayals of African Americans in film and radio. In many instances this effort to change social norms resulted in direct confrontations with black actors who were viewed as letting down their race. .... continue reading >> http://www.oxfordaasc.com/public/features/archive/1208/photo_essay.jsp?page=3