I recently finished “A Black Women’s History of the United States” by Kalie Nicole Gross and Daina Ramey Berry. I recommend the book and found it to be very interesting. The authors did a good job of presenting information beyond commonly taught lessons about Black American history.
The book spans pre colonial America to the early 2000s. It discusses the contributions, accomplishments and advocacy of Black women throughout America’s hostile and oppressive history. Black women were/are very active in civil rights and labor movements. Black men are the face of the Civil Rights Movement and various Black organizations and the support, organizational efforts and legal actions taken by Black women have been overlooked by history.
The book is very divers. It cover Black women in different time periods with different points of view and various circumstances. This specific study of American history teaches a lot about American history overall. The book isn’t very long and you can probably get through it relatively quick. If you are interested in American history, women’s history or Black history I think you will find it valuable. I borrowed the book from the library but I’m considering buy a copy for my home library.
I ran across a racist cartoon from 1941 on You Tube called “Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat”. It’s an animated music video about a Black woman referred to as Mama. Mama is a wash woman, meaning she does laundry for a living. She washes clothes by hand in a metal pail with a scrub board to the beat of a jazz tune. Mama is a likeable character that happily smiles and claps her hands to the beat of a song about her rubbing her knuckles raw washing clothes for others.
Most of the commentary under the video was supportive of the video. Many viewers enjoyed the video, saw it as positive or made excuses for the portrayal of Black people. Some commentators enjoyed the video because it brought back childhood memories. I can’t say I’m surprised by the commentary on social media regarding this video.
Black people are portrayed as sub human in “Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat”. They live in a town called Lazy Town. Everything in this town is lazy and slow moving. The inhabitants of Lazy Town are slow moving, slow talking, ugly, dumb and quarrelsome. The one person in the video that has human like characteristics is a biracial or perhaps 1/4 Black woman. She is pretty, smart and has a human voice.
The men of Lazy Town perk up and become more energetic when the mixed race woman comes ashore. The only feminine looking women in the cartoon are fair skinned. The light skinned feature of the video is no lady. She struts around Lazy Town in a see through skirt. The men run behind her in excitement. Most of the darker skinned women are all heavy set with deep voices. The little girls even have deep voices.
I was aware of these portrayals before this popped up on You Tube. Newspaper comic strips use to mock Black people in newspapers daily. I recall a “Mammy” character in the old “Tom & Jerry” cartoons from my own childhood.
I think that there is some truth to the way men of Lazy Town reacted to the fair skinned women. Black men have defended their preference for lighter skinned women for years in public. Fair skinned women are the beauty standard in the Black community. Black men have been successfully brainwashed by racist media and it persists to this day. If you want proof look for the Black Manosphere on You Tube. They have been expressing their disdain for Black women that look Black for well over a decade. The Black Manosphere refers to Black women that look like Black women as masculine, loud and criticize Black women for having children. I won’t post a link but please feel free to explore You Tube on your own for more information. Instead here is an old clip from “The Ricki Lake Show”.
First, I’ll address the lazy and slow moving stereo type. Black Americans were concentrated in the south eastern United States. It gets hot and humid in the south. They were also performing labor intensive tasks like picking cotton. Black people were tired and likely suffering from heat stroke. Picking cotton in high heat and humidity all day would do that to a person.
The residents of Lazy Town ate watermelon and had chickens. The towns folk were likely share croppers as all four of my grand parents were. They didn’t make much money. My mother told me once that she was paid by the weight of the cotton. After picking cotton all day she earned $3. $3 for the entire day. My mother was one of nine children. My mom’s family was typical of Black southern families. They were dirt poor and lived in poverty.
I never understood why eating watermelon and chicken was a negative stereotype. I unabashedly enjoy both with no shame. The answer is that anything associated with Black people and Black communities is mocked and made into something negative. Watermelon is relatively easy to grow. Small seeds give you a large fruit. Watermelon was an economical crop for large, Black families for whom food was scarce. Growing watermelon was a smart means of surival.
Chicken is a relatively cheap and easy animal to raise. It provides meat and eggs. Poultry was accessible to Black families unlike livestock like cattle that requires a lot of land and is expensive. Chicken was economical for a poor community. As far as voraciously eating chicken and watermelon I’m sure Black people were hungry. Hunger was constant. Of course they hungrily ate and were grateful to what was available to them. I sure can’t blame them.
Those are just a few of my thoughts on “Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat”. The short film speaks volumes about American history in culture in less than seven minutes. The You Tube comment section under further educates viewers on current attitudes towards Black people. I hope you enjoyed my insights and commentary on this video.
“Little Black Sambo” was the next video suggested to me after “Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat”.
I remember learning why Frederick Douglass had two s’s in his last name when I was in the fifth grade. He added the extra s in order to distinguish himself from his legal owner. Black slaves carried the last names of their owner. The legacy has continued. Black Americans carry the last name of their families former legal owner. I recall admiring the subtle act of rebellion. I respect Frederick;s strong sense of self during the times of legal slavery.
I remember wanting to change my last name. However, I didn’t want to change my name to X like Malcom Little did. I wanted to change the spelling of my name. There is no way to change the spelling of my and have it make phonetic sense so that idea was fleeting. But I have taken strong interest in Black American studies since then. Learning about Black people’s history in America has given me perspective, admiration for Black Americans and a strong sense of self, pride and belonging.
The story of Black people in America is very dramatic. It makes me sad, angry, confused and dismayed. But some of the stories of Black people in America are historic and awe inspiring. Black Americans are ironically very patriotic and have stood up for the American way more than anyone else. Other disenfranchised groups have modeled their campaigns for equality and rights on the African American struggle in this country. African American history is fascinating.
The governor of Florida wants to block advance studies of African American studies in Florida. He wants to limit the history of what is taught about Black people in American schools with the Stop WOKE Act. Rob DeSantis doesn’t want any subject matter about race taught in schools. I’m unsure how you teach American history without talking about ethnic background when you consider the vast majority of this country has ancestors that originated outside of North America.
The current political attitudes in the US are very disappointing and insulting. Republicans are firmly committed to dishonesty and controlling Americans. They are also devoted to presenting White people as morally righteous and admirable. The agenda of White Americans is thought of as destined to be and all their actions are thought to be justifiable. That’s not history. That’s not education. That’s propaganda.