Ceramic Uncles and Celluloid Mammies

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From loyal Toms and carefree Samboq to faithful mammies and wide-eyed pickaninnies, images in American culture have depicted blacks as servile, docile, and primitive. Now, this provocative and insightful work identifies these oppressive images, explores their evolution, and shows how they have been imprinted on the American psyche.

In this provocative and insightful study, black studies scholar and cultural critic Patricia Turner presents eye-opening analysis of how ...

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Overview

From loyal Toms and carefree Samboq to faithful mammies and wide-eyed pickaninnies, images in American culture have depicted blacks as servile, docile, and primitive. Now, this provocative and insightful work identifies these oppressive images, explores their evolution, and shows how they have been imprinted on the American psyche.

In this provocative and insightful study, black studies scholar and cultural critic Patricia Turner presents eye-opening analysis of how blacks are portrayed in popular culture--and of how those images reinforce and perpetuate injurious stereotypes and antiblack prejudice. 16-page photo insert.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this astute study of black representations in American popular culture, Turner, who teaches at the University of California, Davis, unpacks a vast range of insidious and pervasive racist iconography. Turner documents how cultural artifacts as varied as racial jokes, urban myths, household bric-a-brac and media portrayals spanning the last 150 years reinforce longstanding stereotypes of African Americans. A chapter on ``contemptible collectibles'' surveys the servile and imbecilic imagery of domestic kitsch like mammy cookie jars, lawn ornaments and smiling pickaninny dolls, noting the premium on such items in today's antiques market. Elsewhere Turner explores the legacy of 19th-century minstrelsy and Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, whose eponymous, desexualized, pious protagonist continues to influence black roles in contemporary TV and film. Most startling is Turner's analysis of recent films set in Africa, whose black characters, she notes, are granted far less dignified roles than their white and primate co-stars. Turner's research is not especially groundbreaking, but her lucid analysis and keen insights are most valuable. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Turner, a black studies professor, has written a scholarly book on the things we don't really notice-figurines and package labels. She also discusses the images of blacks on the silver screen and in books and plays. As well written as her first book, I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (LJ 8/93), this volume will have less mass appeal because Turner's more weighty theme is the prevalence of racism in an American culture that is primarly Eurocentric. In her comments on film, she shows how even positive images of blacks are filtered through white biases and how stories of black heroes are watered down by enlarging the white roles in the stories as in the movies Glory and Mississippi Burning. This book would be a fine addition to any academic library, as it can be used for research on film, black studies, popular culture, and American literature. Larger public libraries with local interest in any of those topics should also consider purchasing.-Anita L. Cole, Miami-Dade P.L. System, Fla.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385467841
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Ch. 1 Contemptible Collectibles 9
Ch. 2 Alligator Bait 31
Ch. 3 Back to the Kitchen 41
Ch. 4 The Troping of Uncle Tom 69
Ch. 5 Jacksonalia 89
Ch. 6 Everything is Not Satisfactual 105
Ch. 7 In Search of the Young, Gifted, and Black 119
Ch. 8 Ethnic Aliens 147
Ch. 9 Distorted Soundtracks 154
Ch. 10 From Real Blacks to Reel Blacks 166
Ch. 11 Of Primates, Porters, and Potables: Images of Africa on Screen 182
Ch. 12 From Homer to Hoke: A Small Step for African-American Mankind 206
Notes 220
Index 230
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