"Mae Mallory's "Of Dogs and Men," Alice Childress's Mildred & Leftist Black Women Activists" / by Paula Marie Seniors

"Mae Mallory's "Of Dogs and Men," Alice Childress's Mildred & Leftist Black Women Activists," excerpted from “Mae Mallory and “The Southern Belle Fantasy Trope” at The Cuyahoga County Jail 21st and Payne PAIN,” From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the Help, Palgrave, 2014

As the biographer of Mae Mallory with my upcoming book Mae Mallory, the Monroe Defense Committee, and World Revolutions: African American Women Radical Activists (1958-1987), The University of Georgia Press, 2018,  I would like to share an excerpt of "Mae Mallory and "The Southern Belle Fantasy Trope." I hope you enjoy.

(Clarence Henry Seniors Collection, COPYRIGHT) In Monroe, North Carolina 1958 after the attempted rape and brutal beatings of two African American women by white men and the loss of these court cases, African American women compelled the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Robert F. Williams to found the Negroes with Guns Movement. Williams proposed protecting women and children with arms, meeting “violence with violence,” and “repel[ing] on the spot attacks by white persons.”[i] In 1961 African American working class self-defense and radical activist Mae Mallory a devotee of Williams Negroes with Guns Movement traveled to Monroe, North Carolina to support him and the visiting Freedom Riders sent down by CORE and others to show the effectiveness of passive resistance over self-defense.[ii] On Sunday August 27, 1961 5000 armed Ku Klux Klan including the police viciously attacked the demonstrators, invaded the heavily armed and trained Black community, and a Ku Klux Klan couple the Stegall’s pushed their way into Williams home where he sheltered them from angry Blacks. They left unharmed.[iii] Mae recalled that Chief Mauney “threatened to have us all hanging by our heels within thirty minutes.”[iv] Williams and his family abandoned Mallory and made their way to Cuba, Mayfield traveled to Ghana, and Mae escaped first to New York, and then Cleveland.[v] Accused of kidnapping the Stegall’s she was incarcerated in Cleveland, Ohio at the Cuyahoga County Jail-21st and Payne PAIN where she faced extradition to Monroe. Mae Mallory spent thirteen months in jail and her writing offered her an important strategy for surviving incarceration, through Carole Boyce Davies and Barbara Harlow’s Prison Blues and resistance literature, incarcerated women’s writing to resist domination, class oppression, and patriarchal authority; writing that challenged state repression aimed at those who resist hegemony.[vi] Mae Mallory’s “Of Dogs and Men” from the Workers World and the pamphlet Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, provides us a window in which to view her inner life and personal experience as one of the many children and women incarcerated at 21st and Pain. I will explore how Mallory used her writing to fight white female supremacy in prison and to survive incarceration. I also look at how white women and men used the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope and the Mammy Trope to maintain whiteness privileges to keep African American women in a subjugated position in U.S. societyBy looking at Mallory’s writing as well as the writing of Alice Childress, Louise Thompson and others I explore African American resistance to these representations. This essay excavates a history erased and offers an alternate narrative of the civil rights movement centered on the self-defense movement as opposed to the passive resistance movement of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and others. While incarcerated at 21st and Pain Mae Mallory wrote “Of Dogs and Men” in 1962 a riff on Of Mice and Men, a groove on Robert Burns “To a Mouse”--- “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”  “Just recently, I read of the case of a dog fighting for his life in the courts. This dog is accused of killing six sheep. For this the courts have ordered him to be put to death. The case is now before the Supreme Court. Chances are that this dog will be allowed to remain in its home pending the outcome of litigation.I, too, have a case before the United States Supreme Court. But look where I have to stay pending the outcome of litigation. For many months, I have been locked up in the Cuyahoga County Jail, denied the companionship of my family and friends. This dog is actually accused of killing six sheep. I killed no one. I am guilty of no crime. But the charge against me is kidnapping a white couple. This couple was protected and given safe conduct out of an enraged community. Nevertheless, this constituted kidnapping in the eyes of the racists. This dog will probably get more consideration from the courts than I will.” [vii] Mae Mallory In “Of Dogs and Men” Mallory wrote of the effort by a white supremacist woman to maintain the status quo during World War II in New York City. Mallory “An [upper middle class] white woman I used to babysit for when I was but a teenager once said that having me around was like having a pet.” [viii]Mallory’s employer regarded her in the same way that white elites viewed Chinese houseboys of 19th century San Francisco and Black women of Mallory’s historical milieu of New York’s Bronx Slave Market (1930s-1940s). Chinese houseboys/domestics symbolized upper class position and wealth for white folks who prized these Men as status symbols. One man Younghill Kang experienced dehumanizing treatment because the whites he worked for treated him as one would treat a house pet. African American women day laborers found themselves treated similarly. [ix] According to Dayo Gore and Erik McDuffie due to the economic down turn of the 1930s and the loss of jobs within the World War II industry in the 1940s, African American women found themselves relegated to selling their labor daily (day work) on the street corners of New York City to predatory white women, who undermined their dignity and humanity to maintain white womanhood rights, a la the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope New York style.[x] The Southern Belle Fantasy Trope contends that all Southern white women are in direct line and descendants of the Southern Planter Class, grew up with the requisite happy Black fat corpulent dialect spewing, man-less, manly, nameless Mammy, who took care of their every whim, and waited on them hand and foot.[xi] Analogous to African American women slaves who through their exploited labor made it possible for white woman to fit snugly within The Southern Belle Fantasy Trope, African American leftists Marvel Cook and Louise Thompson Patterson contended in “The Bronx Slave Market”(1935) and “Toward a Brighter Dawn” (1936) respectively that Black women domestics in New York also enabled white middle and upper class women to sustain their position in society, with those of a lesser social ilk elevating their status through African American woman’s labor. Ultimately by hiring Black maids all white women undergirded their identity, white supremacist ideologies, and “class privilege.”[xii] Like the Bronx Slave market African American women who white women treated as commodities, undressed with their eyes to according to Cook “measure their strength to judge how much work they [could] stand,” and who they bought at an undercut price as one would “a cow or horse in the public market,” Mae Mallory’s presence in the white woman’s household symbolized these Black women and that of the ornamental Chinese houseboy. [xiii]  By defining Mallory as a pet, the white supremacist woman ensured Mallory’s position in the white household as the personification of the ultimate trophy domestic, stripped of her humanity. Her pet status in the household ultimately allowed the white woman to uphold hegemonic power. In “Of Dogs and Men” Mae Mallory considers her transfiguring from human to pet as well as the other identities that Black domestics hold in the minds’ eye of white women. Mallory “I wondered about that statement [having me around was like having a pet]. For it was different. The usual statement of this nature concerning a Black servant goes something like “She’s just like one of the family.”[xiv]Consequently Mae reflects upon the dual identity of the black servant as Dog and Honorary Family Member, very much in line with the honorary white status that some non-whites held in South Africa during apartheid. Working class African American leftist, activist, actress, intellectual writer Alice Childress’s African American domestic Mildred in “Just Like One of the Family” set in 1956 New York City helps us to understand Mallory’s metamorphosis from human to pet. Childress modeled Mildred after her militant Aunt Lorraine, and drew upon her own experience as a domestic.[xv] According to Trudier Harris Childress’s exit from domestic service remained quite dramatic for she “surprised her employer by throwing keys at her head,” her insurgent approach to resigning. Notwithstanding or perchance because of this transgression of decorum the white woman wanted her to return to work!![xvi]Accordingly Mildred’s rebellious spirit emerges from Childress and Aunt Lorraine’s work life. Similar to Mallory Mildred found herself confronted with the dual identities of Dog and Honorary Family Member. In the story, Mildred could not help but hear Mrs. C, the white woman she worked for brag loudly and purposely to her friend and for Mildred’s benefit that “[w]e just love her! She’s like one of the family.”[xvii] Mildred like Mallory felt that something more lay within this statement, that Mrs. C. transformed Mildred into an anthropomorphic pet rather than a family member. Mildred with an insurrectionary nature reminiscent of the Louisiana slave uprising of 1811, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and with a sharp tongue upbraided Mrs. C.  “You are a pretty nice person to work for, but I wish you would please stop talkin’ about me like I was a cocker spaniel or a poll parrot or kitten,” thus Mildred fully rejects Mrs. C. situating her as a prized pet.[xviii]The teenaged Mae Mallory also questioned the designation of pet. “This time it was like having a pet around the house. The usual American household pet is a dog. Could this woman have intended to imply that having me around the house was like having a dog around? No doubt she did!” [xix] Like the African American women at the Bronx Slave Market who white women treated as merchandise, undressed with their eyes, and bought as one would buy livestock, Mallory discovered that she too symbolized a treasured and prized animal, no less, no more. [xx] Both Mildred and Mallory discovered a way to push back against the efforts to dehumanize them. Mildred informed Mrs. C. that she was “not just like one of the family at all!” For she remained confined to eating in the kitchen while the white family ate in the dining room. Unlike the fantasy rendering of The Help where Celia Foote and her husband inconceivably break with white Southern Custom and sit Minny down to a meal and serve her! Mildred could not entertain guests in the parlor as Mrs. C’s son did, she could not borrow the lace like Mrs. C’s mother, or nap in the living room like little Carol, and unlike the dog she could not sleep on the satin spread. She told Mrs. C. that she cleaned, cooked and kept the house, and that “[i]fI dropped dead or had a stroke you would get somebody to replace me,” so no Mildred argued she was not like one of the family, but rather a servant due a raise![xxi]  Like Alice Childress who rendered her resignation by assaulting her white female employer with keys only to find that for this transgression in decorum she received an invitation to return to work, Mildred’s employer promised to ask her husband about a raise for Mildred. Mildred personified Black women domestics who Louise Thompson contended advocated for “freedom and dignity” and who African American leftist Esther Cooper Jackson characterized as both oppressed and revolutionary, for their founding of the Domestic Workers Union. Thompson argued that these Black women remained at the center of “transformative change,” “challenged prevailing cultural representations of black women domestics as servile and unworthy of protection,” and fought back.[xxii] Mae Mallory epitomized Mildred and other domestics as she rallied against white female supremacy through “Of Dogs and Men.” Through writing Mallory, Childress, Thompson, and Jackson resisted white writers discourse about the Black maid. COPYRIGHT [i] Robert F. Williams. Negroes with Guns, (New York, Marzani & Munsell, Inc., 1963), 63; Robert F. Williams, “Robert Williams President of the Union County, N.C. NAACP,” Document 1, 1, Robert F. Williams Collection, no date, probably 1959, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, MALP Box 16; Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1964; “Monroe NAACP Defies National Office Decision on Williams,” 1210, no date probably 1959, 1, Robert F. Williams Collection, MALP Box 16, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.   [ii] Williams, Negroes with Guns, 1964, 78; Malaika Lumumba, Mae Mallory Interview, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 19, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders. Firelight Media, PBS, 2010   After the Freedom Riders 1961 brutal defeat in challenging the Jim Crow transit laws and segregationist policies in public facilities, they traveled to Monroe. (Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders. Firelight Media, PBS, 2010; See Also: Robert F. Williams, Negroes With Guns,  Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie)   [iii] Robert F. Williams, The Crusader, Vol. 4, No 4, October/November, 1962, 2; Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring1964, 207-209; Mae Mallory Interview by Malaika Lumumba, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 20-22, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; Clarence Seniors, “Free Mae Mallory!” reprinted from Africa, Latin America, Asia Revolution, (Paris, France, November 1963), Harry Golden Papers Part 2, Box 16, folder 49, Archives, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina: Robert F. Williams, The Crusader  August 1963, 7, UNC Charlotte Manuscript, Harry Golden Papers Part 2 Box 62 folder 26: Mrs. E. A. Johnson, Editor, The Crusader, February 1964, Robert F. Williams, The Crusader  August 1963, 7, UNC Charlotte Manuscript, Harry Golden Papers Part 2 Box 62 folder 26; Constance Webb, “Behind the Iron Curtain the Community Speaks,” 1211, Robert F. Williams Collection, MALP Box 16, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.   According to Williams the police arrested, shot and savagely beat a seventeen-year old boy. (Robert F. Williams, The Crusader, August 1963, 7, UNC Charlotte Manuscript, Harry Golden Papers Part 2 Box 62 folder 26).   [iv] Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1964, 209; Mae Mallory Interview by Malaika Lumumba, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 22, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.   [v] Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1964, 209; Clarence Seniors, Chairman, “From Lynch Threat to Frame-up,” September 16, 1964, Ephemera on the Monroe Defendants, The North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Malaika Lumumba, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 17-18, 19-22, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University. [vi] Carole Boyce Davies, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of a Black Communist Claudia Jones. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), 102-103; Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature, (New York and London: Methuen, 1987), 2, XVI-XVII, XIII. [vii] Mae Mallory, Letters From Prison: The Story of A Frameup, 27 [viii] Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” Workers World, November 23, 1962, 4, The Library of Congress; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26, The Monroe Defense Committee, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26 [ix] Yen Le Espiritu, 1997, 34-35 [x] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 19, 104, 106-107, 108; Erik McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism,  (Durham and London: Duke University Press),Pg 112 [xi] David Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors, 32-33; Carey McWilliams, North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States, (New York: Greenwood Publishers), 1968, 43 [xii] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 110; Erik McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism,  (Durham and London: Duke University Press), 2011, 113 [xiii] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 110 [xiv] Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” Workers World, November 23, 1962, 4, The Library of Congress; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26, The Monroe Defense Committee, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture;  Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26 [xv] Trudier Harris, Introduction, Just Like One of the Family, XIII ; Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, Dayo Gore 1-2; 74-75, 44, 66, 85, 95, 108-109 Alice Childress was a leftist who supported Paul Robeson during his battle the House of Un American Activity Committee, she founded the leftist Committee for the Negro in the Arts, “which challenged Hollywood’s dual black list for radial black artists,” (66) worked on the case against Rosa Lee Ingram who in 1947 killed a white man during an altercation in Georgia, and published in Masses and Mainstreams and “Conversations from Life” about Black Domestic Madge in Paul Robeson’s Freedom, and in Baltimore Afro-American which would become Just Like One of the Family. (Gore, 74-75, 44, 66, 85, 95, 108-109, ; Charles H. Martin, “Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case,” The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1985), pp1985, PG 251-253) [xvi] Trudier Harris, Introduction, Just Like One of the Family, XIII ; Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 1-2 [xvii] Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 1-2 [xviii] Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 2. See Daniel Rasumussen’s American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, (New York: Harper Collins), 2011. [xix] Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” Workers World, November 23, 1962, 4, The Library of Congress; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26, The Monroe Defense Committee, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture;  Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26 [xx] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 110 [xxi] Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 1-2 [xxii] Erik McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism,  (Durham and London: Duke University Press), 2011, 114, 116 Copyright by Paula Marie Seniors. All Rights Reserved.

(Clarence Henry Seniors Collection, COPYRIGHT)

In Monroe, North Carolina 1958 after the attempted rape and brutal beatings of two African American women by white men and the loss of these court cases, African American women compelled the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Robert F. Williams to found the Negroes with Guns Movement. Williams proposed protecting women and children with arms, meeting “violence with violence,” and “repel[ing] on the spot attacks by white persons.”[i]

In 1961 African American working class self-defense and radical activist Mae Mallory a devotee of Williams Negroes with Guns Movement traveled to Monroe, North Carolina to support him and the visiting Freedom Riders sent down by CORE and others to show the effectiveness of passive resistance over self-defense.[ii] On Sunday August 27, 1961 5000 armed Ku Klux Klan including the police viciously attacked the demonstrators, invaded the heavily armed and trained Black community, and a Ku Klux Klan couple the Stegall’s pushed their way into Williams home where he sheltered them from angry Blacks. They left unharmed.[iii] Mae recalled that Chief Mauney “threatened to have us all hanging by our heels within thirty minutes.”[iv] Williams and his family abandoned Mallory and made their way to Cuba, Mayfield traveled to Ghana, and Mae escaped first to New York, and then Cleveland.[v] Accused of kidnapping the Stegall’s she was incarcerated in Cleveland, Ohio at the Cuyahoga County Jail-21st and Payne PAIN where she faced extradition to Monroe.

Mae Mallory spent thirteen months in jail and her writing offered her an important strategy for surviving incarceration, through Carole Boyce Davies and Barbara Harlow’s Prison Blues and resistance literature, incarcerated women’s writing to resist domination, class oppression, and patriarchal authority; writing that challenged state repression aimed at those who resist hegemony.[vi] Mae Mallory’s “Of Dogs and Men” from the Workers World and the pamphlet Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, provides us a window in which to view her inner life and personal experience as one of the many children and women incarcerated at 21st and Pain. I will explore how Mallory used her writing to fight white female supremacy in prison and to survive incarceration. I also look at how white women and men used the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope and the Mammy Trope to maintain whiteness privileges to keep African American women in a subjugated position in U.S. societyBy looking at Mallory’s writing as well as the writing of Alice Childress, Louise Thompson and others I explore African American resistance to these representations. This essay excavates a history erased and offers an alternate narrative of the civil rights movement centered on the self-defense movement as opposed to the passive resistance movement of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and others.

While incarcerated at 21st and Pain Mae Mallory wrote “Of Dogs and Men” in 1962 a riff on Of Mice and Men, a groove on Robert Burns “To a Mouse”--- “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”

 “Just recently, I read of the case of a dog fighting for his life in the courts. This dog is accused of killing six sheep. For this the courts have ordered him to be put to death. The case is now before the Supreme Court. Chances are that this dog will be allowed to remain in its home pending the outcome of litigation.I, too, have a case before the United States Supreme Court. But look where I have to stay pending the outcome of litigation. For many months, I have been locked up in the Cuyahoga County Jail, denied the companionship of my family and friends. This dog is actually accused of killing six sheep. I killed no one. I am guilty of no crime. But the charge against me is kidnapping a white couple. This couple was protected and given safe conduct out of an enraged community. Nevertheless, this constituted kidnapping in the eyes of the racists. This dog will probably get more consideration from the courts than I will.” [vii] Mae Mallory

In “Of Dogs and Men” Mallory wrote of the effort by a white supremacist woman to maintain the status quo during World War II in New York City. Mallory “An [upper middle class] white woman I used to babysit for when I was but a teenager once said that having me around was like having a pet.” [viii]Mallory’s employer regarded her in the same way that white elites viewed Chinese houseboys of 19th century San Francisco and Black women of Mallory’s historical milieu of New York’s Bronx Slave Market (1930s-1940s). Chinese houseboys/domestics symbolized upper class position and wealth for white folks who prized these Men as status symbols. One man Younghill Kang experienced dehumanizing treatment because the whites he worked for treated him as one would treat a house pet. African American women day laborers found themselves treated similarly. [ix] According to Dayo Gore and Erik McDuffie due to the economic down turn of the 1930s and the loss of jobs within the World War II industry in the 1940s, African American women found themselves relegated to selling their labor daily (day work) on the street corners of New York City to predatory white women, who undermined their dignity and humanity to maintain white womanhood rights, a la the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope New York style.[x] The Southern Belle Fantasy Trope contends that all Southern white women are in direct line and descendants of the Southern Planter Class, grew up with the requisite happy Black fat corpulent dialect spewing, man-less, manly, nameless Mammy, who took care of their every whim, and waited on them hand and foot.[xi] Analogous to African American women slaves who through their exploited labor made it possible for white woman to fit snugly within The Southern Belle Fantasy Trope, African American leftists Marvel Cook and Louise Thompson Patterson contended in “The Bronx Slave Market”(1935) and “Toward a Brighter Dawn” (1936) respectively that Black women domestics in New York also enabled white middle and upper class women to sustain their position in society, with those of a lesser social ilk elevating their status through African American woman’s labor. Ultimately by hiring Black maids all white women undergirded their identity, white supremacist ideologies, and “class privilege.”[xii] Like the Bronx Slave market African American women who white women treated as commodities, undressed with their eyes to according to Cook “measure their strength to judge how much work they [could] stand,” and who they bought at an undercut price as one would “a cow or horse in the public market,” Mae Mallory’s presence in the white woman’s household symbolized these Black women and that of the ornamental Chinese houseboy. [xiii]  By defining Mallory as a pet, the white supremacist woman ensured Mallory’s position in the white household as the personification of the ultimate trophy domestic, stripped of her humanity. Her pet status in the household ultimately allowed the white woman to uphold hegemonic power.

In “Of Dogs and Men” Mae Mallory considers her transfiguring from human to pet as well as the other identities that Black domestics hold in the minds’ eye of white women. Mallory “I wondered about that statement [having me around was like having a pet]. For it was different. The usual statement of this nature concerning a Black servant goes something like “She’s just like one of the family.”[xiv]Consequently Mae reflects upon the dual identity of the black servant as Dog and Honorary Family Member, very much in line with the honorary white status that some non-whites held in South Africa during apartheid.

Working class African American leftist, activist, actress, intellectual writer Alice Childress’s African American domestic Mildred in “Just Like One of the Family” set in 1956 New York City helps us to understand Mallory’s metamorphosis from human to pet. Childress modeled Mildred after her militant Aunt Lorraine, and drew upon her own experience as a domestic.[xv] According to Trudier Harris Childress’s exit from domestic service remained quite dramatic for she “surprised her employer by throwing keys at her head,” her insurgent approach to resigning. Notwithstanding or perchance because of this transgression of decorum the white woman wanted her to return to work!![xvi]Accordingly Mildred’s rebellious spirit emerges from Childress and Aunt Lorraine’s work life. Similar to Mallory Mildred found herself confronted with the dual identities of Dog and Honorary Family Member. In the story, Mildred could not help but hear Mrs. C, the white woman she worked for brag loudly and purposely to her friend and for Mildred’s benefit that “[w]e just love her! She’s like one of the family.”[xvii] Mildred like Mallory felt that something more lay within this statement, that Mrs. C. transformed Mildred into an anthropomorphic pet rather than a family member. Mildred with an insurrectionary nature reminiscent of the Louisiana slave uprising of 1811, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and with a sharp tongue upbraided Mrs. C.  “You are a pretty nice person to work for, but I wish you would please stop talkin’ about me like I was a cocker spaniel or a poll parrot or kitten,” thus Mildred fully rejects Mrs. C. situating her as a prized pet.[xviii]The teenaged Mae Mallory also questioned the designation of pet. “This time it was like having a pet around the house. The usual American household pet is a dog. Could this woman have intended to imply that having me around the house was like having a dog around? No doubt she did!” [xix] Like the African American women at the Bronx Slave Market who white women treated as merchandise, undressed with their eyes, and bought as one would buy livestock, Mallory discovered that she too symbolized a treasured and prized animal, no less, no more. [xx]

Both Mildred and Mallory discovered a way to push back against the efforts to dehumanize them. Mildred informed Mrs. C. that she was “not just like one of the family at all!” For she remained confined to eating in the kitchen while the white family ate in the dining room. Unlike the fantasy rendering of The Help where Celia Foote and her husband inconceivably break with white Southern Custom and sit Minny down to a meal and serve her! Mildred could not entertain guests in the parlor as Mrs. C’s son did, she could not borrow the lace like Mrs. C’s mother, or nap in the living room like little Carol, and unlike the dog she could not sleep on the satin spread. She told Mrs. C. that she cleaned, cooked and kept the house, and that “[i]fI dropped dead or had a stroke you would get somebody to replace me,” so no Mildred argued she was not like one of the family, but rather a servant due a raise![xxi]  Like Alice Childress who rendered her resignation by assaulting her white female employer with keys only to find that for this transgression in decorum she received an invitation to return to work, Mildred’s employer promised to ask her husband about a raise for Mildred. Mildred personified Black women domestics who Louise Thompson contended advocated for “freedom and dignity” and who African American leftist Esther Cooper Jackson characterized as both oppressed and revolutionary, for their founding of the Domestic Workers Union. Thompson argued that these Black women remained at the center of “transformative change,” “challenged prevailing cultural representations of black women domestics as servile and unworthy of protection,” and fought back.[xxii] Mae Mallory epitomized Mildred and other domestics as she rallied against white female supremacy through “Of Dogs and Men.” Through writing Mallory, Childress, Thompson, and Jackson resisted white writers discourse about the Black maid.

COPYRIGHT

[i] Robert F. Williams. Negroes with Guns, (New York, Marzani & Munsell, Inc., 1963), 63; Robert F. Williams, “Robert Williams President of the Union County, N.C. NAACP,” Document 1, 1, Robert F. Williams Collection, no date, probably 1959, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, MALP Box 16; Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1964; “Monroe NAACP Defies National Office Decision on Williams,” 1210, no date probably 1959, 1, Robert F. Williams Collection, MALP Box 16, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

 

[ii] Williams, Negroes with Guns, 1964, 78; Malaika Lumumba, Mae Mallory Interview, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 19, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders. Firelight Media, PBS, 2010

 

After the Freedom Riders 1961 brutal defeat in challenging the Jim Crow transit laws and segregationist policies in public facilities, they traveled to Monroe. (Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders. Firelight Media, PBS, 2010; See Also: Robert F. Williams, Negroes With Guns,  Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie)

 

[iii] Robert F. Williams, The Crusader, Vol. 4, No 4, October/November, 1962, 2; Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring1964, 207-209; Mae Mallory Interview by Malaika Lumumba, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 20-22, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; Clarence Seniors, “Free Mae Mallory!” reprinted from Africa, Latin America, Asia Revolution, (Paris, France, November 1963), Harry Golden Papers Part 2, Box 16, folder 49, Archives, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina: Robert F. Williams, The Crusader  August 1963, 7, UNC Charlotte Manuscript, Harry Golden Papers Part 2 Box 62 folder 26: Mrs. E. A. Johnson, Editor, The Crusader, February 1964, Robert F. Williams, The Crusader  August 1963, 7, UNC Charlotte Manuscript, Harry Golden Papers Part 2 Box 62 folder 26; Constance Webb, “Behind the Iron Curtain the Community Speaks,” 1211, Robert F. Williams Collection, MALP Box 16, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

 

According to Williams the police arrested, shot and savagely beat a seventeen-year old boy. (Robert F. Williams, The Crusader, August 1963, 7, UNC Charlotte Manuscript, Harry Golden Papers Part 2 Box 62 folder 26).

 

[iv] Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1964, 209; Mae Mallory Interview by Malaika Lumumba, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 22, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

 

[v] Mae Mallory, “Memo From a Monroe Jail.” Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Negro Freedom Movement, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1964, 209; Clarence Seniors, Chairman, “From Lynch Threat to Frame-up,” September 16, 1964, Ephemera on the Monroe Defendants, The North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Malaika Lumumba, Ralph J. Bunch Oral History Collection 523, February 27, 1970, 17-18, 19-22, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[vi] Carole Boyce Davies, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of a Black Communist Claudia Jones. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), 102-103; Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature, (New York and London: Methuen, 1987), 2, XVI-XVII, XIII.

[vii] Mae Mallory, Letters From Prison: The Story of A Frameup, 27

[viii] Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” Workers World, November 23, 1962, 4, The Library of Congress; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26, The Monroe Defense Committee, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26

[ix] Yen Le Espiritu, 1997, 34-35

[x] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 19, 104, 106-107, 108; Erik McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism,  (Durham and London: Duke University Press),Pg 112

[xi] David Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors, 32-33; Carey McWilliams, North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States, (New York: Greenwood Publishers), 1968, 43

[xii] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 110; Erik McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism,  (Durham and London: Duke University Press), 2011, 113

[xiii] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 110

[xiv] Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” Workers World, November 23, 1962, 4, The Library of Congress; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26, The Monroe Defense Committee, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture;  Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26

[xv] Trudier Harris, Introduction, Just Like One of the Family, XIII ; Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, Dayo Gore 1-2; 74-75, 44, 66, 85, 95, 108-109

Alice Childress was a leftist who supported Paul Robeson during his battle the House of Un American Activity Committee, she founded the leftist Committee for the Negro in the Arts, “which challenged Hollywood’s dual black list for radial black artists,” (66) worked on the case against Rosa Lee Ingram who in 1947 killed a white man during an altercation in Georgia, and published in Masses and Mainstreams and “Conversations from Life” about Black Domestic Madge in Paul Robeson’s Freedom, and in Baltimore Afro-American which would become Just Like One of the Family. (Gore, 74-75, 44, 66, 85, 95, 108-109, ; Charles H. Martin, “Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case,” The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1985), pp1985, PG 251-253)

[xvi] Trudier Harris, Introduction, Just Like One of the Family, XIII ; Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 1-2

[xvii] Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 1-2

[xviii] Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 2. See Daniel Rasumussen’s American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, (New York: Harper Collins), 2011.

[xix] Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” Workers World, November 23, 1962, 4, The Library of Congress; Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26, The Monroe Defense Committee, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture;  Mae Mallory, “Of Dogs and Men,” from Letters From Prison by Mae Mallory: The Story of A Frameup, PG 25-26

[xx] Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 110

[xxi] Alice Childress, Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life, (Boston: Beacon Press), 1956, 1986, 1-2

[xxii] Erik McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism,  (Durham and London: Duke University Press), 2011, 114, 116

Copyright by Paula Marie Seniors. All Rights Reserved.