In Ossie Davis' Purlie Victorius, Ol' Cap'n nostalgically reminisces about the good old days when he enjoyed what he recollects as close loving relationships with Blacks. He recalls to Gitlow "how you and me growed up together. Had the same mammy - my mammy was your mother." And Gitlow responds, "Yessir! Bosom buddies." Despite the satire and irony with which Ossie Davis consciously invests this scene, it suggest to me another irony - one which Davis certainly did not intend - and that is that one of the images of the Black woman which has frequently been shared by both Black and white writers, especially males, is that of a mammy whose goal in life is to provide food and nourishment to them. In much white plantation literature the mark of the Black woman's goodness, indeed often her superiority, is her absolute, zealous dedication to caring for and nourishing her white charges.

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Copyright © 1984, Howard University's Institute for the Arts and Humanities. This article first appeared in Sagala: 4 (1984), 16-22.

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