The Help – Giving Our Ancestors Voice

Even though The Help did not win the Oscar’s coveted Best Picture Award, the movie is a testatment for African American Women who lived and worked as Maids. Not because they were not capable of doing anything else, but this was the only thing they were deemed worthy of doing.

African Americans, after Emancipation, were looking at the potential not only to enjoy and receive freedom but to live it. They had a desire to integrate into American life. How hopeful they must have been about the bright futures for their families.

At the beginning of Radical Reconstruction, there was a tremendous Federal will to both bring the South into submission and also to protect African American Civil Rights. In 1866, the 14th Amendment recognized that “All citizens born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States.” Reconstruction was an attempt to create a country in which it would be possible to have a bi-racial and equal citizenship. In most places, it succeeded. After Reconstructions, new laws in the South criminalized Black Americans. Racial segreatation was mandated by law to remind black people, day after day, minute by minute, that they have a place in society and that place is to be subservient. Degrading as it was, segreation was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson.

As the 19th century came to a close and for many decades to come, the possibility of freedom was overshadowed by the constant threat of forced labor and violence. This is what my great-grandmother and grandmother were born into, both becoming “The Help.” This movie is representative of the thousands of fameless, faceless maids whose stories were never told or recorded and who were deemed to be of no value. This is the story of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts.

Just like “The Help” told a story, we all have a story to tell.


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