Dignity in Struggle

Florida Evans lives in the projects, yet sounds as if she's reciting Shakespeare.

Captions by Natalie Hopkinson

African Royal

In Coming to America, Her Majesty, Queen Aoleon of Zamunda, oozes power and checks the husband when necessary: "Put a sock in it, Joffe; the boy's in love!"

Great Expectations

Who holds down a law-firm job and has five kids? Clair Huxtable, that's who. Bows.


Aunt Jemima, the faithful slave who supposedly made great pancakes, was pure fiction — played by the actress Nancy Green, says Micki McElya in Clinging to Mammy. Myth still sells a lot of pancakes.

Cosmopolitan Mama

Generations before Angelina Jolie adopted her rainbow tribe, there was Josephine Baker.

Tiger Mom

Until you've been jailed for trying to get your children into a better school, as Kelley Williams-Bolar has, you don't deserve the title.

Single Lady

The late-1960s TV series Julia, about a Vietnam War widow, was originally supposed to be called Mama's Man. Depictions of black-women-led households have gone downhill ever since.

No Doubt

In playing a mom willing to look the other way at impropriety toward her son, Viola Davis did the impossible in Doubt: She stole the scene from Meryl Streep cold.

The Crusader

Marian Wright Edelman won't rest until all children have opportunities.

Earth Mama

Erykah Badu has three children by three different hip-hop all-star fathers. This musician defies convention and lives her art.

First Grandmother

Marian Robinson ventures out in D.C. She does her own laundry. When strangers ask if she's President Obama's mother-in-law, she just denies it. Love.


Michelle Obama can do the Dougie, too. Enough said.