Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Black Mammy Memorial Institute

good housekeeping magazine vintage cover june 1911

As reported in  Good Housekeeping Magazine, Volume 53, on July 1911, in an article entitled, "How a Southern School is Training Colored Women in Household Arts. Here is Real Progress," by Riley M. Fletcher Berry --  At Athens, Georgia, a charter has been granted to The Black Mammy Memorial Institute, a school which promises to fill a crying need. Heretofore, the negro training schools usually have had as their aim the education of teachers and leaders. The Black Mammy Institute has as its primary object the practical training of plain, everyday workers for the house and the field. It will thus be of twofold benefit: to the American housekeepers and farmers, who so vitally need reliable, efficient helpers, and to the average negro, whose training has been so long neglected, to his own detriment and that of our social and economic conditions.

The Black Mammy Memorial Institute's Promising candidates for honors as cooks and housemaids.

Both men and women, boys and girls, will be trained in this Georgia institution; the women chiefly as cooks, maids, seamstresses and laundresses, the men as agricultural trade laborers.

The new opportunity for the colored race is due to the work of Samuel F. Harris, founder of the Athens Industrial School and superintendent of the Athens Colored High School. His theories, which have given birth to The Black Mammy Institute, are directly opposed to those of the majority of the educators of the negro race.

Mr. Harris believes that the rightful development of his people must come from within outward; tha they must be judged from the everyday and not from the specially developed type; and the greatest mistake heretofore in the education of his people has been the attempt to train them as teachers and leaders.
Making cookies for students; Fort Valley School; [Fort Valley, Georgia]

He respects the work of the founders of Hampton and Tuskegee, and employs some of their graduates; but his won theory is that those born to command will develop more rationally from the plain industrial education of the rank and field  and by training in the simple work for which the negro is as a rule best adapted.

He frankly recognizes the negro's reputed lack of industrial stability, his improvidence and his "shiftlessness." But he believes in the inherent good qualities of his race. These latter were typified in the "black mammy" and "black uncle" of old plantation days, the tradition of whose loyalty and famous cookery has come down hand in hand with the old negro melodies.

Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute during meal preparation.
Daytona, Florida Normal and Industrial Institute, 1912 (Mary McLeod Bethune is the third from the left)

Mr. Harris believes that there still exists sufficient of the old fashioned  upright, loyal element in descendants of this higher type of negroes to create efficiency out of the present apparently hopeless inefficiency  and by the development of a capable, cleanly modern type of workers out of the average "no 'count" negro, he hopes to bridge the chasm so long and dangerously widening between the two races.

All of the negro training schools already established, which number nearly three hundred, represent virtually the North and the ideas of money of Northern educators.


This new school represents the South and suggests the special training given the negroes of the old regime, by the best class of Southern slave-holders.

The Black Mammy Institute of Georgia has already met with recognition by the leading white educators and business men of the state, and will no doubt be as enthusiastically welcomed by Northern as by Southern homemakers. The project will appeal to a large class of thinkers and economic workers, who have heretofore failed to find stimulating interest in the cause of the colored people, and these thinkers will doubtlessly materially further this new bond of interest between the North and the South, which will permit both sections to avail themselves of the opportunity for securing real American and nearly perfect servants. (source: Good Housekeeping Magazine; pp 562-563)

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