No More Jezebel or Mammy: New Museum Art Exhibit Shatters Stereotypical Depictions of Black Women

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"Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated): Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp" (Kara Walker. edition 21/35, 2005 offset lithography and screenprint 39 x 53 in. 2005.339k)
“Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated): Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp” (Kara Walker, edition 21/35, 2005 offset lithography and screenprint 39 x 53 in. 2005.339k)

A new art exhibit at Louisiana’s Alexandria Museum of Art is breaking down the stereotype of the strong Black woman, thanks to contributions from Black female artists. Rather than depicting women who affirm that two-dimensional trope, these works showcase Black women with fully developed personalities who fully experience lived emotions.

According to the gallery’s website, the exhibit “Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women” features work from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation curated jointly by the InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts Space at Colorado College and the AMoA. Each work in the showcase unpacks the stereotypes of the angry, emasculating Sapphire, the overtly sexual Jezebel and the selflessly nurturing Mammy. In doing so, each idea is disproved in images.

"Why Can't We Just Sit Down And Talk It Over, edition" (Mickalene Thomas 39/40, 2006 screenprint image: 19 1/2 x 30 inches, frame: 24 x 35 inches 2007.417)
“Why Can’t We Just Sit Down And Talk It Over” (Mickalene Thomas, edition 39/40, 2006 screenprint image: 19 1/2 x 30 inches, frame: 24 x 35 inches 2007.417)

Mickalene Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Just Sit Down And Talk It Over” features a woman who may typically be seen as the Jezebel, but instead, she rests calmly with her shirt casually unbuttoned as she gazes crosslegged.

"Indigo Blue (Sea Island Pure)" (Alison Saar, edition 2/3, 2016 intaglio 12 x 11 3/4 in. 2016.90)
“Indigo Blue (Sea Island Pure)” (Alison Saar, edition 2/3, 2016 intaglio 12 x 11 3/4 in. 2016.90)

In Alison Saar’s piece, “Indigo Blue (Sea Island Pure),” it showcases a break from the strong black woman trope as the woman is covered in tears and her apperance is devoid of makeup.

The “Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women” exhibit is on display at AMoA now through Feb. 18. It will also be on display at Colorado College beginning March 27.

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