November 18, 2014 at 9:52 am

Hardison Discusses ‘Of Maids and Ladies: The Ethics of Living Jane Crow’

Dr. Ayesha Hardison presented “Of Maids and Ladies: The Ethics of Living Jane Crow” at the University of Kansas on Oct. 30.

Hardison examined the oppressive situation faced by women of color after the Civil War.

Dr. Ayesha Hardison

Dr. Ayesha Hardison

“Working from the decline of the mammy in postbellum America to the rise of the domestic worker during the 1940s and 1950s, Hardison explored the ways that black women writers attempted to critique their condition and reimagine black femininity in juxtaposition with oppression by white women and black men’s gender privilege. Hardison explored this double bind faced by black women through Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), Ann Petry’s The Street (1946), and cartoonist Jackie Ormes’s newspaper serials Candy and Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger,” wrote Creighton N. Brown and Simone Savannah on the Project on the History of Black Writing blog.

“Of particular interest was Hardison’s discussion of Candy, which ran in the Chicago Defender, a leading black newspaper. Candy presented a maid who was slender, confident, and contemptuous rather than the sturdy and quiet shadow of the mammy trope. During her discussion, Hardison deftly explicated the subversive and affirming content of this single panel series,” they continued.

“Moreover, Hardison asserted that Candy disrupted the romanticizing of the hierarchical relationship between black women and their white employers. While Ormes challenged the mammy trope through the character of Candy, Hardison noted that the stereotype of mammies being trusted members of the family and a necessary presence in the domestic scene persists on the page and in film, such as in the 2009 novel The Help and its 2011 movie adaptation.”

Read their entire blog.

About Hardison: Hardison is Associate Professor of English at Ohio University, where she teaches courses in African American literature. Her first book, Writing through Jane Crow: Race and Gender Politics in African American Literature (American Literatures Initiative, University of Virginia Press, 2014), examines representations of African American women during the World War II/pre-modern Civil Rights era and the politics of black literary production during that period.

She is the Fall 2014 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor at the University of Kansas. The Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship was established at the University of Kansas in 1977 in honor of the African American poet, playwright and fiction writer who lived in Lawrence from 1903 to 1916. The professorship brings a prominent or emerging minority scholar to KU for one semester each year.

Hardison is serving as a visiting professor in the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Earning her doctorate in English from the University of Michigan, Hardison has received fellowships and awards from The National Academies Ford Foundation, the Black

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