Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Nuff said

(Taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

'[T]hey told me to do what I got to do.'

-- Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old African-American woman from Jackson, Mississippi. A longtime worker in domestic service, Cooper has filed a tort suit alleging that her "name and image" were misappropriated by the author of the novel The Help. (credit for detail from 1939 Works Progress Administration poster extolling domestic servants as "ready to serve") A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for today. Cooper's quotation may be found in an excellent Legal History Blog post on the lawsuit, the novel, and the just-released movie that's based on the novel. The author of the LHB post, Tomiko Brown-Nagin (right), T. Munford Boyd Professor of Law, Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law, and Professor of History at the University of Virginia, writes that the film has spurred a new round of controversy. Critics allege not only that The Help (mis)uses real-life individuals like Cooper, but also that it "distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers," as described in a statement by the the Association of Black Women's Historians on which Brown-Nagin reports. Nagin-Brown notes that the group points readers to more accurate portrayals' of these experiences, such as Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (2009) by Jacqueline Jones.

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