From slavery through the Jim Crow period, the mammy caricature served the political, social, and economic interests of mainstream white America. During slavery, the mammy caricature presented the idea that blacks-in this case, black women-were content, and even happy, as slaves. Her wide grin, hearty laugher, and loyal servitude were offered as evidence of the supposed humanity of the institution of slavery.
The mammy caricature romanticized the realities of slave and servant life and obscured the unequal foundation of the master-servant power structure. Portrayed as an obese, coarse, maternal figure, the mammy had great love for her white “family,” but often treated her own family with disdain. Although she had children, sometimes many, she was, by mainstream standards, sexually unappealing. She “belonged” to the white family, though it was rarely stated. She was a faithful worker. She had no black friends; the white family was her entire world.
More information on the Mammy Caricature