What is a Mammy? A mammy, as defined according to the British and Irish, is a mother. Prior to the 20th century, the term mammy was used to describe a female slave whose primary task was to take care of the domestic duties of the house including cleaning, cooking, and nursing her owner’s children.
Mammy was stereotyped as a uneducated, submissive, dark skin, overweight, and very maternal woman. She has been portrayed in films, movies, and television sitcoms such as Gone with the Wind (1939), Aunt Jemina's Nancy Green (1893-1923), and The Help (2011). Yet, Mammy is so much more than depicted by Hollywood. She is and was a central to the development and success of the community.
Mammy cared for generations of planters, laborers, and enslaved Africans and African Americans. Mammy's courage, strength, wisdom, and tenacity is displayed on every family tree. Mammy was strong enough to care for the children of the planters and had enough strength to come home and take care of the children of her village. She wasn't just your Mammy or my Mammy. She was ours. We are all Mammy's descendants.
In 2007, Gaynell Brady began researching her family tree. Through genealogical research, evidence revealed her family has lived in Louisiana for over 200 years. After careful analysis of her family tree she noticed there was one theme that was prevalent among all of her mammies—the desire to make each generation stronger and smarter. The inspiring stories of her mammies left her with a sense of pride, strength, and courage.
In 2013, Mammy's was created to honor the legacy of those who sacrificed their lives to take care of others. Every seed Mammy planted in Louisiana soil blossoms in classrooms, libraries, community center, home, church, museum, and fields. Her sacrifices are acknowledged with every presentation and will never be forgotten.
Please Mammy. ca. 1899. Photograph. Library of Congress.
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