Newest trend in advertising PT 2: Jemima Jewelry, or why not wear a miniature Mammy on your ears?

Posted on September 27, 2012


Oh joy.A few months ago I noted Adidas and their terribly misguided “shackle sneakers.”  Read that post here

Now Mammy Merchandise has reached a new low, as Dolce and Gabbana have decided in 2012, wearing a facsimile of a black woman from the ears of their models or splashed across the front of their clothes should be a hot trend. Who knows, perhaps black lawn jockeys will make a return sometime soon. Maybe then those who see nothing wrong with all this will finally “get it.”  It’s not cutting edge, or haute couture. It’s offensive, stupid, and smacks of entitlement.


Here’s what I say:


Click image for larger view:

Jemima Jewelry. Every woman’s dream item. Photo from

Did Dolce & Gabbana send racist earrings down the catwalk?

There’s nothing cute about accessories that make light of colonial imagery

by  of the



“Some might argue that they’re harmless, even cute, but there’s nothing cute about two white men selling minstrel earrings to a majority non-black audience. There wasn’t a single black model in Dolce & Gabbana’s show, and it’s hard not to be appalled by the transparent exoticism in sending the only black faces down the runway in the form of earrings. Pandering to a long-gone era is hardly surprising in 2012, when people can’t even take a photo of a baby without sticking a “vintage” sepia filter on top. Bygone eras and cultures are constantly drawn on by fashion designers to re-appropriate on a whim. But when you’re explicitly pandering to such a shameful era of western racism and colonialism, it’s time to move on to the future.”




The surprising thing is that I’m not surprised by all this.

While some may call much of what’s occurred with recent depictions of those of African Ancestry “well meaning” that’s simply a far too easy out.

For an example, the painting below was created in the 1800s. The model/former slave was posed as per the artist’s command.

The Photoshopping of Michelle Obama was done in 2012.

How the publishers of the magazine thought the First Lady of the United States should be superimposed on a slave showing one breast is beyond me. Many may say this is simply a cultural difference. I beg to differ.



Marie-Guillemine Benoist painting Portrait d’une Négresse altered with Michelle Obama’s face for the Spanish magazine Fuera de Serie



“The portrait was first made in 1800, when the French artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist exhibited it with the title ‘Portrait d’une Négresse’ (Portrait of a black), in the lounge of the Louvre.

The image was inspired when the country had abolished slavery six years earlier, and the portrait was intended as an inspiring symbol and black rights.

In keeping with the true meaning, the article says: ‘Michelle granddaughter of a slave, Lady of America’. The great-great grandparents were slaves.”




The key here is that Michelle’s ancestry included former slaves. However, she’s not and never has been a slave. But slapping her face on a slave from another country makes it appear as though there were no differences in how slaves were presented from country to country.

The woman in the painting was never identified, but slaves rarely were recognized in paintings of their likeness. She’s simply “Négresse.”  And simply a means to an end.

From The Help, to Revealing Eden: Saving the Pearls, to Photoshopping Michelle Obama, these depictions are simply a means to an end.


First, please note the standard accessories needed to depict the image of we commonly call in America: The Mammy

1. head covering, usually a bandanna

2. dark brown or black colored skin

3. Wide eyes with more white showing to contrast with the dark skin

4. (optional) Lips made prominent via coloring or size. Exaggerated features were used most times, because for years blacks were not thought of as attractive and were not presented as such.


And understand, I know some will argue that this imagery wasn’t limited to America. To which I say, I agree. So, in order to determine whether the Dolce and Gabbana earrings are a “homage” or a stereotypical depiction of how women of African Ancestry were depicted during segregation, an oppressive caste system that wasn’t limited to the U. S. (in Africa it was known as Apartheid). I maintain there is a fundamental difference in how many people of color viewed and continue to view ourselves, versus some non-minorities, especially  those who create images and works with those of color in mind. Most times we get the shaft. And the Dolce and Gabbana pieces are an example.

I can live without their outfits and “accessories.” But in order to send a hard message that this is so not cool, it’ll take the rich clientele who purchase from them to hit the company where it hurts. In other words, don’t buy another doggone thing from them.

If their name was slapped onto one of their in house designers, then they okay’ed this mess. Any apology is empty, because it reeks of “Oh, but look at all the press we got! We’ll just issue an apology and all will be forgiven.”


Don’t do it. There are other designers who respect the black culture and want our money. I say go where we’re wanted, not where we’re simply a caricature or an “Accessory.”



Jemima Jewelry closeup




Using black women to sell products is nothing new. Luzianne coffee and chicory image from the Ferris State Jim Crow Museum




Mammy banks for those who like to collect such things. One is authentic while the other is a fake.




Mammy lamp. Not sold on HSN, but popular during segregation. Image from Ferris State Museum of Jim Crow Memorabilia




Everybody’s favorite “Aunt”, Aunt Jemima, still “large and in charge” even today





Aibileen from The Help wears a bandanna





Barbados Mulatto Girl by Agostino Brunias, 1770s. Free woman of color purchasing fruit/vegetables



More information on this painting can be found here:




There is a difference between caricature and realism, and between those who seize an opportunity to co-op simply for a means to an end. I’ll be back with more research on this matter.


Dance of the Maroons by Artist Barrington Watson, representing Beautiful Realism






You know what else is offensive? Sites like this one, which copy a whole post and list them on their site, as if THEY CREATED IT, simply to drive traffic to their site:





The proof. A screen shot of site jacking whole content to SELL THEIR MERCHANDISE





I will take all necessary steps to get this resolved and my blog post removed. Here’s the message I left on their site (notice they claim my response is awaiting moderation). When I checked, they refused to post it:


Click image for larger view:





content jacking site Reconwarehouse uses offensive tags that should not be linked with material in my blog post.




I got curious about them and this whole jacking of posts thing they’ve got going to direct traffic to their site. So I thought, why not investigate . . .

UPDATE – While IPAGE came up as their domain (among others) LIME LABS LLC also came up, which leads me to GO TO NAMES.COM, which may simply be another attempt at misdirection.  have tons of complete posts from other sites. Stay tuned for more on this because now I’m intrigued. Whoever the real domain host is may not know what the creator of the site is doing, which is probably getting paid for the number of clicks to their site using the content from others. I’m probably not the only one complaining since I see more content from around the web on the reconwarehouse site. But I plan on doing more investigating. Just call this the case of the phantom blogs. . .


Newest Update: a company by the name of Bizland came up when I did a further search. Hold on, because I’m just getting started.



For more on the arts and representations of those of black ancestry in the Caribbean culture see this blog:





For more Mammy images, please visit this site:




This post is in development . . . 

Posted in: Blog