Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

March 30, 2003

Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images & Their Influence on Culture, by Patricia A. Turner. University of Virginia. 238 pages. $16.50 softbound.

A troubling, delightful, admonitory, incisive examination of images of condescension, patronizing and celebration in U.S. commercial and folk art before the beginnings of the civil rights era. Turner is professor of rhetoric and folklore in the African-American and African studies department of the University of California. She has done very interesting earlier books in the field, but this one -- concentrating on 150 years of conflict and coexistence among black and white Americans -- is particularly splendid. Lots of provocative and in some cases nostalgia-laden illustrations. But the real substance is in a clear-eyed, intelligent and comprehensible text.

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