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It was, after all, a story about White women, more like a 21st century minstrel show in my view and we (“the help”) were

the backdrop, not in Blackface but in the Mammy role for sure. . . .  I don't want to take anything away from the dignified

way Black women made it possible for our generation to survive and have other choices.

photo left: Beah Richards



Books by Joyce E. King


Black Education / Preparing Teachers for Cultural Diversity / Teaching Diverse Populations

 Black Mothers to Sons: Juxtaposing African American Literature with Social Practice.

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My Mother Was a Maid

Letter to Don By Dr. Joyce E. King



Hello Don,

My mother was also a maid—a "domestic"—a housekeeper, employed doing "Day's work" when she could get it—struggling to work every single day of her life since childhood, and she experienced more than her share of harassment, underpay and exploitation. Sometimes she wouldn't get hired because she was "too beautiful" and the white women didn't want her around. She also formed powerful, lasting bonds of affection with "her families"—sometimes—while we children grew up in the communal care of the "village." I remember the day my uncles—my mother's brothers—went absolutely berserk when she took me to work with her—on the white side of town and let me go "help" a Chinese family across the street from where she was working—just like Minnie sent her daughter off to "learn the trade."

I think my mother thought I would be safer across the street from her than left in the community with all that teenage boys and girls can get themselves into.  But my uncles won the day and I went to work cutting onions and picking strawberries in the fields with my grandmother instead.  The Association of Black Women Historians  has written a powerful analysis of the film, capturing much of my sentiments. They identify the trivialization of Black life and struggle, the stereotypes and provide a more historically accurate contextualization of the exploitation of Black women's work than in the film.

Like you, I appreciated Viola Davis's performance but I find the movie shallow and dangerous. I especially reject the way it directs our emotional identification as Black people towards the feelings and sensibilities of white women and their children more than toward our own story. (Who is that Black man who is beating Minnie, whom we never see on the screen?? What's his story?) Who are those cardboard Black children who never speak in the film, while the little white girl delivers memorable lines in made-up Black speech: "You is kind. You is important. . ." The "wicked" white sister, "Ms. Hilly," distracts from the actual systemic nature of institutionalized terror and racism—not just the whims and humor of a single woman and her clique. (Wasn't she just mad and mean because she didn't get the man she wanted?)

White women ought to protest the way they are depicted in this film. What the film offers is a less than superficial engagement with the actual terror of the time and place. The maid goes to jail because she stole a ring—not because she was just "living while Black." She is only beaten by the police because she is "resisting." I could go on. That's the price we pay to see ourselves (even in distorted, mystifying ways) on the big screen. Davis might get that Oscar—the role was a sufficient reminder of how much we loves our white folks—and she was exceptionally good in the role—which is far, far and away beneath her great talent. 

It was, after all, a story about White women, more like a 21st century minstrel show in my view and we (“the help”) were the backdrop, not in Blackface but in the Mammy role for sure. ("Why can't they always be there in there singing the blues in the background—something like that classic line from “Your Blues Ain't Like Mine”?) I don't want to take anything away from the dignified way Black women made it possible for our generation to survive and have other choices.  But this movie is not their story.  I ain't mad at 'em—it's they system, after all. They decide these are the kinds of movies we can see and they promote them with great fanfare. 

Even Jet magazine has a spread on this "must see" movie. I just hope some of us will think more about what we could be seeing if we supported filmmakers with our best interests in mind instead of other people. Let's see if a book like, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance: A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, another book written by a white woman (Danielle L. McGuire) ever makes it to the big screen—or E. Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Sons—written by a Black women—would make it to Hollywood. In addition to Alice Childress's Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic's Life, I also recommend Beah Richard's poem, "A Black Woman Speaks" as an antidote to this "sugar-coated Satan sandwich.

A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood, White Supremacy and Peace

                                                            Excerpt by Beah Richards

It is right that I a woman black
Should speak of white womanhood
My husbands, my fathers, my brothers,
My sons died for it
They said, the white supremacists said
That you were better than me
That your fair brow shall never know
The sweat of slavery
They lied, white womanhood too
Is enslaved, the difference is degree
They brought me here in chains
They brought you here willing slaves to man
You bore him sons . . .
I bore him sons . . .
No, not willingly
He purchased you
He raped me
You were afraid to nurse your young
Less fallen breasts offend you master's sight
And he should flee to firmer love letters
And so . . .
You passed them . . . your children
On to me . . .
Flesh that was your flesh
Blood that was your blood
Drank the sustenance of life, from me
And as I gave suck
I knew I nursed my own child's enemy
I could have lied . . .
Told you your child was fed
Until it was dead of hunger
But I could not find the heart
To kill orphaned innocence
For as it fed, it smiled
And burped and gurgled with content
And as for color . . .
Knew no difference
Yes, in that first while
I kept your sons and daughters alive
But when they grew strong
In blood and bone that was of my milk
You taught them to hate me
You gave then the words mammy . . . and nigger
So that strength that was of myself
Turned and spat upon me
Despoiled my daughters
And killed my sons!!!

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Dr. Joyce E. King is the Benjamin E. Mays Chair of Urban Teaching, Learning, and Leadership in the College of Education at Georgia State University. 

The former Provost and Professor of Education at Spelman College, King is recognized here and abroad for her contributions to the field of education. In addition to Black Education, a publication which she edited, Dr. King has published three other booksPreparing Teachers for Cultural Diversity, Teaching Diverse Populations and Black Mothers to Sons: Juxtaposing African American Literature with Social Practice. She has published many articles as well that address the role of cultural knowledge in effective teaching and teacher preparation, black teachers’ emancipatory pedagogy, research methods, black studies epistemology and curriculum change. 

King is a graduate of Stanford University where she received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in social foundations and a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. She also holds a certificate from the Harvard Institute in educational management. Click to purchase Black Education. There is also a video documentary

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Black Woman Speaks and Other Poems

By Beah (Beulah Richardson) Richards

Beulah Richardson A Black Woman Speaks—Beulah Richardson (also known as Beah Richards; July 12, 1920 – September 14, 2000), was an African-American actress, poet, and political activist. Best known for her roles in theatre and film including Sidney Poitier’s mother in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, Beulah Richardson was also a civil-rights activist who, before her death in 2000, was the subject of a documentary film entitled Beah: A Black Woman Speaks directed by Lisa Gay Hamilton and produced by Jonathan Demme. This is an extremely rare vintage pamphlet of her historic poem A Black Woman Speaks which was read at the Women’s Workshop at the ‘American People’s Peace Congress’ held in Chicago in June 1951. Her poem was a scathing indictment of white supremacy in the US and emphasized the need for understanding among white women, and called for black and white women to unify for democratic liberties for all. Published by American Women For Peace, NY. Copyright July 1951. Paper covers; Unpaginated; 9 Pages + Foreword—RecycleDreadsAustin

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'The Help' and White Female Identity—By Stephanie Crumpton—16 August 2011—I am not convinced that “The Help” is about telling the stories of Black domestic workers in Jackson, Mississippi. While Viola Davis (amazing) and Octavia Spencer (fantastic) both do an incredible job of bringing their characters to life, the movie really isn’t about Aibilene, Minny or the other Black women who did domestic work for white families in the Jim Crow South. This movie is about Skeeter, who discovers her voice and passion through collecting and publishing Black women’s stories of surrogacy and servitude. . . .

And, what happens if white female viewers take up the movie as an inspiration without examining these ideas and how their lives may or may not be pervaded by them. What does this movie mean for white women who disdain their mothers for not raising them because they were too busy maintaining white upper middle class appearances? What does it mean for white women who torture one another as they claw their way up social ladders to attain status? What does this movie mean for women with white skin who find themselves rejected by other white women because they lack pedigree, or cannot birth babies?

I know this is only a movie, but since it’s already being hailed as a great work that triumphs the human spirit, I take the ideas embedded in the images it presents seriously. Historically, under the racial apartheid of Jim Crow, Black women were often the ones who were used to fill the gaps in mothering and labor while white women grappled with the social context that the movie depicts. What does it mean for these racial ideas to be part of what a white woman embodies and represents as she sits down beside a Black woman to form a circle of sisterhood?

I actually believe that “The Help” is an important movie for people to see because it does present opportunities for dialogue about mothering, relationships between women, identity, class, and race. My hope, however, is that women (Black and white) will not skip over exploring the systemic oppressions that the movie raises, and how those forces impact not only Black women, but also white female identity.—UrbanCusp

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Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

Edited by Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, Norman Noonan, and Dorothy M. Zellner

The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings and arrests and witnessing unspeakable violence. These intense stories depict women, many very young, dealing with extreme fear and finding the remarkable strength to survive.

The women in SNCC acquired new skills, experienced personal growth, sustained one another, and even had fun in the midst of serious struggle. Readers are privy to their analyses of the Movement, its tactics, strategies, and underlying philosophies. The contributors revisit central debates of the struggle including the role of nonviolence and self-defense, the role of white people in a black-led movement, and the role of women within the Movement and the society at large.

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Living In, Living Out

African American Domestics in Washington, D.C., 1910-1940

By Elizabeth Clark-Lewis

This vivid tale of social transformation is original; the interview material is stunning. No one else has the richness of data about women making the transition from rural to urban, agricultural to industrial, southern to northern, family-dominated to individual-directed life. This is an extraordinarily rich account of a group of women in the very process of making these shifts basic to the creation of our urban, individualistic world. That they are African American women domestics makes the story even more striking and delicious.—Phyllis Palmer, author of Domesticity and Dirt

With candor and passion, the women interviewed tell of leaving their families and adjusting to city life “up North,” of being placed as live-in servants, and of the frustrations and indignities they endured as domestics. By networking on the job, at churches, and at penny savers clubs, they found ways to transform their unending servitude into an employer-employee relationship—gaining a new independence that could only be experienced by living outside of their employers' homes. Clark-Lewis points out that their perseverance and courage not only improved their own lot but also transformed work life for succeeding generations of African American women. A series of in-depth vignettes about the later years of these women bears poignant witness to their efforts to carve out lives of fulfilment and dignity.—Smithsonian Books

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Other Suggested Readings:


Alice Childress, Like one of the Family: Conversations from A Domestic’s Life

Marlon James, The Book of the Night Women

Barbara Neeley, Blanche on the Lam

Ann Petry, The Street

Susan Straight, A Million Nightingales

Minrose Gwin, The Queen of Palmyra


Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household

Tera Hunter, To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War

Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present

Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

Duchess Harris, Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama

Duchess Harris, Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity

Source: ABWH

posted 17 August 2011

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Film Reviews of The Help  / Who or What Does "The Help" Help  

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Cover Image

Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music

By Amiri Baraka

For almost half a century, Amiri Baraka has ranked among the most important commentators on African American music and culture. In this brilliant assemblage of his writings on music, the first such collection in nearly twenty years, Baraka blends autobiography, history, musical analysis, and political commentary to recall the sounds, people, times, and places he's encountered. As in his earlier classics, Blues People and Black Music, Baraka offers essays on the famous--Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane--and on those whose names are known mainly by jazz aficionados--Alan Shorter, Jon Jang, and Malachi Thompson. Baraka's literary style, with its deep roots in poetry, makes palpable his love and respect for his jazz musician friends. His energy and enthusiasm show us again how much Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and the others he lovingly considers mattered. He brings home to us how music itself matters, and how musicians carry and extend that knowledge from generation to generation, providing us, their listeners, with a sense of meaning and belonging.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 23 April 2012




Home  Education & History   Educating Our Children

Related files:   Black Education    Ten Vital Principles for Black Education   Afterword    Joyce King Commentary     Black Education for Human Freedom  Who or What Does "The Help" Help   Film Reviews of The Help

Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era    Black Education and Afro-Pessimism