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Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman

Overview

The “Strong Black Woman” has been a part of mainstream culture for centuries, as a myth, a goddess, a positive role model, a stereotype, and as a burden. In Fierce Angels, Sheri Parks explores the concept of the Strong Black Woman, its influence on people of all races, and the ways in which black women respond to and are affected by this image. Originating in the ancient Sacred Dark Feminine as a nurturing and fierce goddess, the Strong Black Woman can be found in myths from every continent. Slaves and slave ...

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Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman

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Overview

The “Strong Black Woman” has been a part of mainstream culture for centuries, as a myth, a goddess, a positive role model, a stereotype, and as a burden. In Fierce Angels, Sheri Parks explores the concept of the Strong Black Woman, its influence on people of all races, and the ways in which black women respond to and are affected by this image. Originating in the ancient Sacred Dark Feminine as a nurturing and fierce goddess, the Strong Black Woman can be found in myths from every continent. Slaves and slave owners alike brought the legend to America, where the spiritual icon evolved into the secular Strong Black Woman, with examples ranging from the slave Mammy to the poet Maya Angelou. She continues to appear in popular culture in television and movies, such as Law and Order and The Help, and as an inspirational symbol associated with the dispossessed in political movements, in particular from Africa. The book presents the stories of historical and living black women who embody the role and puts the icon in its historical and evolutionary context, presenting a balanced account of its negative and positive impact on black culture. This new paperback edition has been revised from the hardcover edition to include two new chapters that expand on the transformative Dark Feminine in alchemy and Western literature and a chapter on the political uses and further potential of the Sacred Dark Feminine in social justice movements in the United States and abroad.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Thought-provoking.”  —Washington Post

“Former NPR host Sheri Parks fearlessly dives into the minefield of race, sex and popular culture in her smart, sharp critical study . . . and debunks stereotypical images of sisters.”  —Essence

“Parks argues that the image of the strong black woman has been as much a burden as a tribute because it has come to be expected that black women will endure all means of hardship in tending to the needs of others. [She] offers a compelling analysis of the toll of the strong image on women who have had enormous responsibilities but—until recently—little control.”  —Booklist

“[A] thorough study.” —Kirkus

“It’s been more than 30 years since feminist Michele Wallace’s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. . . . Parks’ book goes much further. . . . These women are change agents in American life, fiercely human angels, whose stories deserve the kind of complex and nuanced analysis that Parks’ book delivers.”  —Ms.

Kirkus Reviews
In this thorough study of popular icons and real women, an update of the 2010 edition, Parks (American Studies/Univ. of Maryland) finds the myth of the strong black woman--variously known as the Sacred Dark Feminine, Black Madonna, Mammy, Angry Black Woman--both slippery and resonant. On the one hand, black women lived their struggle of keeping the family together, protecting the fragile ego of their man and caring for the elders while striving to achieve in their own right. On the other hand, they have had imposed on them the constricting and frankly insulting stereotypes forged by society's fascination with blackness since ancient times and by perversions of slavery and racism. Sometimes, as Parks shows through myriad examples, the two camps of myth and reality dovetail, such as in the ancient notion of the cosmic Dark Mother sounded by (blind) poet Milton in Paradise Lost and later in the depiction of the Black Mother so beloved in America and which evolved from the real, painful emotional survival of the black woman through slavery. From these evocations, Parks separates the fantasies and caricatures, like the wise, ample, omnipotent Mammy of stage and screen, "created as a piece of nostalgic propaganda to reconstruct the slaveholding South into a peaceful, loving place with contented slaves," and various pop goddesses and Angry Black Women--e.g., the exquisite Oprah, the fist-bumping Michelle Obama. Resilience in riding out difficult situations, being a strategist and activist--all are rich, deep components of the black woman's survival. New, urgent awareness of seeing black women as, in the words of BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, "fully human and fully powerful."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613745045
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,409,322
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Sheri Parks, PhD, is an associate professor in the American studies department in addition to an affiliate faculty member of the women’s studies and African American studies departments at the University of Maryland–College Park. She is an award-winning teacher and public speaker and is the host of NPR’s "Clear Reception with Sheri Parks." Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Washington Post as well as on CNN, MSNBC, and NBC News.
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