The Sapphire Caricature: The Racist Origin Of The Angry Black Woman

6 Posted by - April 2, 2023 - LATEST POSTS

The Sapphire Caricature portrays black women as rude, loud, malicious, stubborn, and overbearing.1 This is the Angry Black Woman (ABW) popularized in the cinema and on television. She is tart-tongued and emasculating, one hand on a hip and the other pointing and jabbing (or arms akimbo), violently and rhythmically rocking her head, mocking African American men for offenses ranging from being unemployed to sexually pursuing white women. She is a shrill nagger with irrational states of anger and indignation and is often mean-spirited and abusive. Although African American men are her primary targets, she has venom for anyone who insults or disrespects her. The Sapphire’s desire to dominate and her hyper-sensitivity to injustices make her a perpetual complainer, but she does not criticize to improve things; rather, she criticizes because she is unendingly bitter and wishes that unhappiness on others. The Sapphire Caricature is a harsh portrayal of African American women, but it is more than that; it is a social control mechanism that is employed to punish black women who violate the societal norms that encourage them to be passive, servile, non-threatening, and unseen.

Today, the Sapphire is one of the dominant portrayals of black woman. This is evident by the words of Cal Thomas, a commentator for FOX Television: “Look at the image of angry black women on television. Politically you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat. She’s always angry every time she gets on television. Cynthia McKinney, another angry black woman. And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They’re usually angry about something. They’ve had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don’t really have a profile of non-angry black women, of whom there are quite a few.”(“Transcript: Fox”, 2008)Thomas, admittedly an untrained sociologist, expressed what many Americans see and internalize, namely, images of Sapphires: angry at black men, white men, white women, the federal government, racism, maybe life itself. Thomas, shortly after making his statements about black women, agreed with a co-panelist that Oprah Winfrey is not angry.aunt ester

The portrayal of black women as angry Sapphires permeates this culture. A Google search of Angry Black Women or ABW will demonstrate how pervasive this caricature has become. She lives in most movies with an all-black or predominantly black cast. For example, there is Terri, cussing and insulting the “manhood” of black men in Barbershop (Brown, Teitel, Tillman & Story, 2002) and its sequel, Barbershop 2 (Gartner, Teitel, Tillman & Sullivan, 2004). There is the augmentative Angela in Why Did I Get Married (Cannon & Perry, 2007).

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  • Pearlena Patters August 11, 2017 - 9:59 am

    There is a comment at the end of the article to “Read more.” However, there is no way to “read more.” There is nothing to click to send the reader to additional information.

  • Jo August 11, 2017 - 11:05 am

    I want to read more but how? No link!

    • Silver Coils October 7, 2019 - 1:19 pm

      The ‘read more’ link takes you to Ferris State University webpage with a Page Not Found message.

  • Sue August 11, 2017 - 12:06 pm

    Maybe the link is “Join Now”.

  • ASTARTEJONES August 11, 2017 - 3:24 pm


    • Kory Green March 21, 2021 - 6:00 am

      What have you been through to where you feel it justified to attack innocent people?

  • Erick Dean Tippett August 12, 2017 - 5:37 am

    Louis Farrakhan’s daughter appears in a video on you-tube in which she claims the white male has made
    the black female into a man! Daniel Patrick Moynihan made the statement when I was living in New York
    that communities which tolerated female lead households without the proper male authority in them would experience well deserved chaos! I remember seeing the demeaning Amos ‘n’ Andy comedy as a young boy
    during the fifties on television with ‘Bulah’ the only t.v. shows we had available to us! The ‘Kingfish’ was a
    flat talking male with a henpecking wife (Sapphire and her mother) who demeaned and belittled him at the
    slightest infraction! When ‘liberal’ producers put the outspoken Hazel Scott on television she was accused
    of being a communist and her program taken off the air! I also had the personal experience of my first vocal instructor when I moved to New York (who was black and an excellent singer with his own opera company!) referred to during a rehearsal break at New York City Opera by the only black in the cast discussion group as “that black faggot who isn’t that good anyway”! This was a black female whom he had encouraged when she was down and out and not getting much work in Manhattan!

    You see, we live in a world that respects POWER and the black race has not experienced that in the world
    and here in this country throughout the modern era of history. This is a psychological manifestation of
    what some have called the ‘HOSTAGE SYNDROME’ when those held captive and weakened by it take their frustrations out on each other! Dick Gregory on another you-tube video confessed the first time he heard
    the ‘n’ word it was from the mouth of his own mother! These experiences leave their mark at very deep
    levels of the mind and many never throw its effects off entirely suffering feckless inferiority in dealing with the aggressive caucasian mind (which has been dominant over the other races for the last five centuries or
    so) during their entire lives and which could very well explain the shorter life span the black male finds to
    be his lease during his time here on earth.

    Though we have had many outstanding achievers they were never made enduring icons whose names and accomplishments were never really imprinted in the minds of black youth and kept alive in family discussions around the dinner table and self developed institutions to shape their minds in the ways of self esteem! This disgraceful, reprehensible insult to the male of the black race will forever be the core of his weakness until transformation in the way minds are shaped by blacks themselves has changed and unfortunately I don’t see that happening any time soon after all these years! Nearly one hundred years after Dr. Carter G. Woodson warned what would result from not developing a powerful self narrative the race continues to wallow in violence and self hate so obscene that terrified and horrified parents here in Chicago are forced to have
    their children SLEEP IN TUBS AND EAT ON THE FLOOR to evade death from flying bullets! And I personally witnessed the shock of my life last month bearing witness to a funeral that turned into a hate filled shouting match so vicious as to spill out on to the street in front of the Funeral home in a manner stultifying to even a hardened mind and one that’s been through some pretty turbulent, tough stuff!

    How Sad!

    Erick Dean Tippett
    Retired Musician/Teacher
    Chicago, Illinois

  • […] we were silenced, swept under the rug, and met with the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype in it’s 2019 manifestation.  Instead of using degrading language directly, there is an erasure […]

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    • Jerry Washington October 8, 2019 - 12:21 am

      Make no mistake about it the angry black woman is legitimate and she’s value throughout the community because she’s has been the one who is made all the decisions when it comes to family matters she is the one that we lean on but the question is who does she leaned on in her time of grief her time of Sorrow a lot of times like when return the alcohol or drugs or something to ease her pain angry black woman is a manifestation of life itself tragically she has to be strong well she will cease to be

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