A social media post recently revealed that Richmond City Council representative Reva Trammell has a Jim Crow-era caricature displayed in her kitchen, a fact that’s put her in hot water with some constituents.
Richmond City Council member Reva Trammell has represented the city’s majority-African American 8th district since 1998. In her role on City Council, she has often been outspoken for the poor and elderly. But now she is facing a controversy with her black constituents, after a facebook post in April revealed that a mammy cookie jar, based on a caricature from the Jim Crow era, was displayed in her kitchen.
The image in the facebook post showed the councilwoman and her son joking about being in need of a haircut. The jar could be seen above the cupboards. The image has drawn harsh criticism from constituents and colleagues. Ninth District City Councilman Dr. Michael Jones tweeted in response to the controversy, “Google Racist Iconography and the ‘mammy’ jar that is in one of my colleagues house will come up. There is no excusing this away. Reva Trammell needs to give an account for this immediately.”
Mayor Levar Stoney, who Trammell has criticized during City Council meetings, also weighed in, tweeting, “I was raised by a woman who worked in the homes of white people. This image isn’t just ‘hurtful to many people.’ Call it what it is — just plain racist against Black people.”
The figure of “Mammy” is one of the most prominent archetypes from the Jim Crow era. It’s meant to symbolize the contentment of African Americans in their roles as servants. “Mammy” is typically illustrated as an obese African American woman with a large smile, wearing a bonnet with a silk velvet mantle.
The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia’s website states, “Her wide grin, hearty laughter, and loyal servitude were offered as evidence of the supposed humanity of the institution of slavery. She had great love for her white ‘family,’ but often treated her own family with disdain. She had no black friends; the white family was her entire world.”
The archetype has made several appearances in notable movies and novels. The character was portrayed by Jennie Lee in the racist 1915 silent film Birth of a Nation, and by Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind — a portrayal for which McDaniel received an Oscar. Aunt Chloe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird are also based on the “mammy” archetype.
In a facebook post in response to the controversy, Councilwoman Trammell stated, “The figurine was given to me about 35 years ago and has been on top of the kitchen cabinet ever since. I never thought much about it, but I do now realize that it is a hurtful item to many people.”
The councilwoman went to say that she has since discarded the jar and that she is “dedicated to serving the fine citizens of Richmond’s 8th district of all races and backgrounds.”
The image has been removed from Trammell’s facebook account. However, this is not the first incident to raise concerns over Trammell’s view on race relations. Trammell was one of only two council members who opposed a symbolic resolution earlier this year to request the state to authority over confederate monuments over to local governments.
According to the Daily Progress, Trammell cited her constituents’ complaints influencing her vote, stating, “I was getting calls and I could show you the texts where people said: Don’t we have other things to worry about?”
Amy Wentz, best known in Richmond as one of the founders of Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, is running against Trammell for the seat in November. The controversy surrounding the jar may hurt re-election hopes for the councilwoman who has held her seat for over two decades.
Top Photo via Reva Trammell/Facebook