By Doris Witt
The production of the Aunt Jemima trademark from an 1889 vaudeville functionality of a play referred to as ''The Emigrant'' helped codify a pervasive connection among African American ladies and foodstuff. In Black Hunger, Doris Witt demonstrates how this connection has operated as a valuable structuring dynamic of twentieth-century U.S. psychic, cultural, sociopolitical, and monetary lifestyles. Taking as her concentration the tumultuous period of the overdue Sixties and early Nineteen Seventies, whilst soul nutrition emerged as a pivotal brand of white radical stylish and black bourgeois authenticity, Witt explores how this interracial get together of formerly stigmatized meals reminiscent of chitterlings and watermelon used to be associated with the contemporaneous vilification of black girls as slave moms. by way of positioning African American ladies on the nexus of debates over household servants, black culinary background, and white woman physique politics, Black Hunger demonstrates why the continued narrative of white fascination with blackness calls for elevated consciousness to the inner dynamics of sexuality, gender, classification, and faith in African American tradition. Witt attracts on contemporary paintings in social background and cultural reviews to argue for foodstuff as an interpretive paradigm which could problem the privileging of tune in scholarship on African American tradition, destabilize constrictive disciplinary obstacles within the academy, and improve our figuring out of the way person and collective identities are tested.
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Extra info for Black Hunger: Food and the Politics of U.S. Identity
What this complicated situation suggests is that Aunt Jemima should not be read simply as a site of white male corporate appropriation of African American women's bodies and histories, though as Sylvia Dunnavant's poem implies, that is a valid and necessary interpretation. 28 In the remainder of this chapter I will pursue this issue by looking more carefully at some of the diverse strategies of appropriation, mimicry, parody, and critique that African Americans have brought to their engagements with Aunt Jemima.
From this complicated patter emerged the image of a wise old cook from the Deep South of Civil War times, who had brought her secret pancake recipe to a benighted northland through the courtesy of the R. T. Davis Milling Company" (145 -46). In addition to distributing a button for the fair with a drawing of Aunt Jemima (a standard mammy caricature) and the caption "I'se in Town, Honey," the company subsequently published a souvenir booklet titled "The Life of Aunt Jemima, the Most Famous Colored Woman in the World" (Marquette 146—47).
Either way, one should bear in mind that in 1889 the vaudeville stage was actually dominated by Irish performers (Snyder 48). 18 As further evidence is located, it will be worth speculating whether a "German" comedian's performance of a black female role could have been perceived as less "natural," and therefore more transgressive, than would a comparable performance by an "Irish" comedian. Subsequently, and still according to Marquette, ex-slave and excellent cook Nancy Green was the first of many "real" black women hired to enact Aunt Jemima once the stage role had become a trademark for pancake mix.