“African-American Women Lawyers Fight for Human Rights, 1872-1960”
Gwen Jordan, University of Illinois at Springfield
“Crossing Over as Aunt Jemima: Edith Wilson and the Question of Dignity”
Rhaisa Williams, Northwestern University
In 1948 the Quaker Oats Company hired Edith Wilson—a popular blues singer who had successfully “crossed-over” to Broadway—to make radio and personal appearances as Aunt Jemima. With her tenure lasting until 1966, Wilson’s performances as the most ubiquitous and (in)famous black mother figure of the 20th century coincided with the Civil Rights Movement. Defending her choice against critiques from the NAACP, Wilson declared that she would bring “dignity” to the role. Using this defense as a launching point, this chapter explores the issues of black female choice, moral ambiguity, and pleasure as it inhered within Wilson’s embodiment of Aunt Jemima.
Commentator: Darlene Clark Hine, Northwestern University
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