The Mammy Project is an original work made up of a series of monologues, which explores the influence that the icon, stereotype and myth of "Mammy" has had on contemporary American culture. This project weaves the untold history of Nancy Green, the first African-American woman hired to play the part of "Aunt Jemima" at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago with the documented struggle that African-American activists' like Ida B. Wells, had to get African Americans represented at the very same World's Fair. Using original music, storytelling and historical speeches, The Mammy Project transforms an oppressive stereotype into a celebration of the power we gain from knowing and understanding our history.
The Mammy Project digs up the dirt on the century old icon of Aunt Jemima. The Bandana’ed superstar of minstrel shows, Hollywood epics, and the breakfast nook is re-imagined from her dark history in the antebellum south, freed from the humiliating role for talented black actresses and set loose from her pancake box prison on an unsuspecting audience. Michelle Matlock, digs deep into her own experience, American history and a twisted imagination to deliver a personal, political and ridiculously entertaining exposé.
My mission with The Mammy Project is to re-imagine the cultural traditions from which the icon was born—slavery, minstrelsy and advertising. By doing so, I am able to stretch and bend the boundaries of our perceptions. Developing this show has allowed me to form a process for creating that combines my acting, clowning, movement, and writing skills. It has also given me a forum to express that I am. Part of my mission is to play venues that allow and support continued discussion after the performance is over. The goal is not only to present my show, but to also open up discussion on how race and stereotyping has played a part in our history and how this affects our everyday lives right now.
The show is provocative and some might say controversial. My intention is to educate, entertain and more importantly to bring people together in asking some tough questions about race in America and the world. I believe the dialogue this subject matter creates, will make a lasting impact long after I’ve packed my pancake mix and gone.
- Michelle Nicole Matlock