Clinging to Mammy: Our Relationship with Slavery

SUN, OCT 21, 2007 (1:07:02)

Micki McElya, professor of American studies at the University of Alabama examines why we cling to the notion of “mammy.” She argues that the figure of the loyal slave has played a powerful role in modern American politics and culture. Stories of faithful slaves expose the power and reach of the myth, not only in popular advertising, films, and literature about the South, but also in national monument proposals, child custody cases, New Negro activism, anti-lynching campaigns, and the civil rights movement. If we are to reckon with the continuing legacy of slavery in the United States, McElya argues, we must confront the depths of our desire for mammy and recognize its full racial implications.

+ BIO: Micki McElya

Micki McElya received her B.A. in history from Bryn Mawr College in 1994 and a Ph.D. from New York University in 2003. Before joining the faculty of the University of Connecticut, she was an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama (2003-2008). Her book, Clinging to Mammy, won a 2007 Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. She was named a “Top Young Historian” by the History News Network in 2008.

Atlanta History Center
Slavery and the Making of America Series