Angry black woman

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The angry black woman stereotype is a trope in American society that portrays black women as sassy, ill-mannered, and ill-tempered by nature. Related concepts are the "sapphire" or "sassy black woman".

The stereotype has not been studied to the same degree as the mammy and Jezebel archetypes.[citation needed] Some scholars, e.g. Dionne Bennett and Marcyliena Morgan, suggest that the stereotype is less studied because researchers accept it as true.[1][unreliable source?][2]

Sapphire stereotype as source[edit]

The angry black woman trope arises from the sapphire stereotype,[citation needed] which claimed that enslaved Black women were aggressive, dominant, and masculine: "In antebellum America, the female slaves' chattel status, sex, and race combined to create a complicated set of myths about Black women."[3]

Negative caricatures of black women historically justified their exploitation. The sapphire archetype painted enslaved women as impure, strong, masculine, dominant, and aggressive women, who drove their children and partners away.[3]

Perpetuation and reproduction of the myth[edit]

With roots in slavery, the sapphire archetype was furthered replicated in films, shows, and literature by the early 1930s. Through these media and social platforms the stereotype was cultivated and sustained . Black women were perceived to be too expressive, more opinionated, harsh, have bad attitudes, loud, and generally negative and rude in nature. The 1930s radio show Amos 'n' Andy was particularly one of the first media outlets that reinforced the stereotype. In this production two white men voiced Black characters. Among those characters were Black women. The narrative of anger, assertiveness, and frequent emasculation was echoed with characters such as Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son and Pam from Martin.

Relationships to other myths[edit]

The sapphire archetype coincides with the mammy and Jezebel. All three of these archetypes uphold the angry black woman myth, but in different ways. In these archetypes, black women were characterized as caregivers, submissive, dependent on men, promiscuous, aggressive and arrogant.[3] The reproduction of these archetypes in popular culture legitimized the dehumanization of black women. Gender Studies professor [Deborah Gray White] writes, "slave women understood the value of silence and secrecy... like all who are dependent upon the caprices of a master, they hide their real sentiments and turn toward him changeless smile or enigmatic passivity".[3] In other words, slavery shaped how enslaved women expressed or suppressed their anger.

Black feminist response[edit]

The angry black woman myth also shapes how others read and interpret the actions of Black women. There are various sources, platforms, and mediums that Black women use to shed light on the impact of the myth. A number of Black women provide insight on how the myth is reinforced in the media, social spaces, and interpersonal interactions. Furthermore, Black women, whether if it's through activism, academia, art, dance, or writing validate, affirm their rage. Through such activism and discourse, black women have opened many conversations regarding the dismissal and scrutiny of their emotions.[citation needed]

Portrayals in the media[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kelley, Blair L. M. (September 25, 2014). "Here's Some History Behind That 'Angry Black Woman' Riff the NY Times Tossed Around". The Root. 
  2. ^ Harris-Perry, Melissa V. (2011). Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-300-16554-4. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gray White, Deborah. Ar'n't I a Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South (1985). New York and London: W.W. Norton and Co., 1999.
  4. ^ a b Naeemah Clark (November 10, 2013). "Find real African American women in a beauty salon, not on reality TV". Greensboro News & Record. 
  5. ^ Kretsedemas, Philip (2010). "'But She's Not Black!': Viewer Interpretations of 'Angry Black Women' on Prime Time TV". Journal of African American Studies. 14 (2): 149–170. JSTOR 41819243. 

Further reading[edit]

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