"Yes, of course, the mammy did exist—once. For at least two centuries she was an institution of the Old South. Even today—here and there—one can be found. But today the Old South as we knew it is disappearing and mammy is rapidly passing away with her. Today—mammy has become largely a fiction—a museum piece of slavery days. Yes—it's true that mammy—the epitome of the patient, contented slave—doesn't live here any more!"
Older Than Radio
— New World A-Comin' (1944 radio series), "The Negro Domestic"
of Ethnic Menial Labor
, Mammy was born in the the Deep South
of Antebellum America
, but continued to be a presence for a century after the American Civil War
and is also "popular" in Cuba. During slavery, she was largely resigned to her enslavement, perhaps even finding Happiness in Slavery
. After she gained her freedom, Mammy continued to serve as a menial domestic to whites, and continued to aspire to little higher. In her freedom, she may have also moved north, although her position and character is largely unchanged whether she lives in rural Georgia or Chicago
Physically, Mammy is generally obese, middle aged or older, and generally has zero sexual flavor about her: a white mistress was supposedly secure that having Mammy about the house was no threat to her husband's fidelity. In terms of character, Mammy is generally poorly educated, but has abundant common sense and is competent in her domestic duties. She is servile toward the whites, but may be an Apron Matron
toward her own family, or even toward her masters' children if they have placed her in authority over the kids. Her earthy common sense may, if her white masters or employers become sufficiently zany, lead her to become the Only Sane Man
of the household and develop some characteristics of a Sassy Black Woman
, perhaps even being driven to deliver a Whoopi Epiphany Speech
Compare Magical Negro
and Almighty Janitor
. May also be the maid of a Maid And Maiden
duo. The Other Wiki
has a page on the archetype here
. The white family she works for may fall under Bad Boss
or Pointy-Haired Boss
, but don't expect the story to call them on it.
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- Aunt Jemima from the Quaker Oats Company's brand; was originally a character from Minstrel Shows.
- Mrs. Butterworth, the pancake syrup mascot. Since the 70s, she's only been shown as the animated bottle in an attempt to tone down the inherent racism of the stereotype.
Anime and Manga
- Missouri, Randy Bragg's housekeeper, from Alas, Babylon.
- Big Lannie from the Dorothy Parker short story "Clothe The Naked".
- Ruby from Patricia McCormick's Cut}.
- Mammy Jane in Charles W. Chesnutt's The Marrow Of Tradition.
- Aunt Jemima from The Rapture of the Deep
- Possibly Calpurnia from To Kill a Mockingbird
- Aunt Chloe from Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Ruth from Summer of My German Soldier.
- Castalia from Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is an examination and subversion. Yes, she's an obese (300 pounds), middle-aged to elderly domestic servant. But, as it turns out, she taught herself to read while still a slave (and reveals this fact while insulting her injured mistress after the plantation house burns down), raises minks, is the female protagonist's lover, and definitely does not qualify for Happiness in Slavery. (She also claims to have been born a princess in Africa, and Lucy relates a story that Castalia told her of her enslavement, though the princess bit is likely Unreliable Narrator.)
- Cook from Old Tin Sorrows is essentially a fantasy-world version of this trope, although she's a half-troll rather than dark-skinned.
- South African cartoon strip "Madam and Eve."
- Beulah, who started as a recurring minor character on Fibber McGee and Molly before gaining her own spinoff show.
- Betty Draper of Mad Men grew up raised by her family's black housekeeper and then hired one for her own children.
- Florida from Maude, and, to a lesser extent, her reprise of the role in Good Times.
- The titular Mama from Thats My Mama.
- Berta in Two and a Half Men is a subversion of the typical Mammy: while she is a competent housekeeper, obese, and full of common sense, she also takes shortcuts, does drugs, and insults the main characters. Oh, and she's white.
- Nel from Gimme A Break.
- Florence from The Jeffersons totally subverts the trope: She's thin, works for a black family and is extremely outspoken and sassy, especially toward George.
- Beloved Belindy from Raggedy Ann, and Dinah in the books.
- Celie from The Colonel's Bequest. The game is set in 1925 on a former plantation.
- Subverted by Lenora "The natural born mama" from Pokémon Black and White. She's not a mammy in personality or profession, but definitely by character design. Part of the reason she drapes her apron (which makes her look rather round) over her back instead in the US release (revaling a slimmer but still much more full bodied figure than the standard Pokemon woman). The apron was also edited out of the Anime and the manga in the US. Also probably part of the reason she was the one of the replaced gymleaders in the main story of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, and the only that can't be battled outside of the World Tournament.
- Mammy Two-Shoes from the Tom and Jerry shorts. Note that Mammy Two Shoes is never shown to be servile to white people and is never seen taking orders from whites either. In fact, by all indications, it's her house that Tom and Jerry are shacked up in.
- Old Aunt Delilah in the Disney cartoon Figaro and Cleo (voiced by the same actress as Mammy Two-Shoes).
- In Drawn Together, prolonged exposure to Captain Hero's X-ray vision causes Foxxy to develop a brain tumor on her stereotype gland, turning her into a Mammy, which makes her a target for the Bureau of Cartoon Political Correctness.